We imagine garment workers hunched over their sewing machines in an overcrowded factory inside a crumbling tenement somewhere in China, Bangladesh or India when in fact, many of these garment workers are actually working in their own homes.
About 20 million in India and 30 million in China are homeworkers. As few of them have the legal status of being legally employed, they are vulnerable to exploitation. A secure monthly income and employee benefits such as overtime pay and healthcare aren’t usually given to them. They are the fashion industry’s invisible workforce, providing additional labor such as cutting off thread, tasseling, beadwork, hand embroidery and so forth.
When you buy that beautiful dress or that cute summer top, do you have any idea who made it? Do you know how much they are paid and the conditions in which they work? Have you ever considered asking the brand about this?
Through accountability and transparency, we create a cultural change and improve the way fashion business is done. We help to improve the lives of these garment workers. And when a pandemic on a global scale hits, these workers, homeworkers and backend laborers can secure a promising future instead of being dumped, forgotten and unpaid as is the case now with COVID-19 where many are left without income as fashion brands and apparel and footwear manufacturers reduce production and close their doors.
“Poverty is a killer too, and many more people die from poverty than from COVID-19.” – Mostafiz Uddin
Which is why this year’s Fashion Revolution event is even more significant. Launched in response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 where 1,100 garment workers and more than 2,500 were injured, the world’s largest fashion activism movement Fashion Revolution continues to campaign for a safe, fair, transparent and accountable fashion industry.
Fashion Revolution Week runs until April 26 and activists in 100+ countries are expected to take part and seek supply chain transparency from their favourite brands and address other issues including:
- Modern slavery – Aside being one of the most polluting in the world, the garment industry is second highest at-risk product category for modern slavery.
- Forced labor – Roughly 99.2% of homeworkers in India’s garment industry are working under forced labor.
- Gender inequality – About 81% of consumers demand fashion brands put an end to gender inequality in their supply chains.
- Environmental pollution – 60% of garments are now made from the synthetic material polyester (a figure which has doubled over the last two decades) making textiles responsible for over 30% of global microplastic pollution.
“I do not earn enough in this work. I am living in hell.” – A 25-year-old garment worker near Meerut
So how can you get involved?
Here are some ways you can participate in Fashion Revolution Week:
Send an email
Send an email to your favorite fashion brands asking for transparency and to support and protect the workers in their supply chain during this global health crisis. Fashion Revolution has prepared a couple of letter templates that you can use if you’re not feeling particularly literary (access it here).
Spread the word via social media
Post a photo of yourself wearing an outfit, tag the fashion brand, use hashtags #WhoMadeMyClothes or #WhatsInMyClothes and start a conversation about who made the garments and the fabrics they use. Doing this will help fashion brands understand what is important to their customers and give them an opportunity to respond about their social and environmental practices and what they’re going to do to improve it.
You can also share a love story about your favourite outfit and why it means so much to you.
Donate to non-profits
Find out which NGOs and non-profits in your community support garment workers and particularly those who have lost their jobs during this pandemic. You can also start a fundraiser such as online clothes swap party and donate the proceeds to these organizations.
Here are some organisations worth checking out:
- Labour Behind the Label – a UK-based not-for-profit co-operative organisation that campaigns for workers’ rights worldwide.
- Clean Clothes Campaign – A global alliance dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment industries.
- Fashion Revolution – of course!
Add your signature
Sign the ‘Manifesto for a Fashion Revolution’ here to show your support for a better fashion industry, one that doesn’t exploit people or destroy our planet.
You can also sign petitions such as Remake’s #PayUp petition calling on fashion companies to honor their agreements and pay for in-production and cancelled orders so that millions of garment workers can still put food on the table.
Write a digital postcard
Write to your local policymakers and ask what they’re doing to create a fairer, safer, cleaner more transparent footwear, apparel and textile industries.
Attend a virtual event
Fashion Revolution are hosting live events on Instagram on a number of topics such as the future of denim and upcycling. New York consultancy FASHINNOVATION is also hosting online events on topics such as the circular economy and global supply chain. And there are countless ethical and sustainable labels hosting their own virtual events. Just jump on and search #whomademyclothes and #fashrev to seek out what they’re up to.
To discover more ways to add your voice and take part in this year’s Fashion Revolution or to access educational resources, visit fashionrevolution.org.
- How to Be a Fashion Activist During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- 10 B Corps Using Fashion and Apparel To Change The World
- 10 Sustainable and Ethical Fashion Podcasts to Tune Into
- 6 Brands Making Ethical and Sustainable Robes and Bathrobes
- Top 10 Films and Documentaries on the Subject of Fairtrade
- 3 Ways to Embrace Unbusyness and Live a Greener, Intentional Life
- The Petition Making Everlane Accountable to its ‘Radical Transparency’ Brand Philosophy
All images via Fashion Revolution. Feature image of activists in San Francisco 2018.