As gratitude for clicking this article, and indeed carrying on reading it as you are right now, I have lined up an excellent job opportunity. High in demand and providing of good local job opportunities, high street retailers are giving you, yes YOU, the chance to work with most of your family and friends! Small setbacks of this job are the 16 hour days, and the daily wage set at 17p and we'll have to lock you in at night, but hey! These companies are giving you a job, please be thankful! Critics call it 'slave labour' but really it is simple supply and demand economics. The point I am making is, if we, as consumers, demand cheap clothes, then know that the clothing retailers will not dig into their profits to make sure that your clothes are cheap, they will dig into the livelihood of their workers.
Today marks the anniversary of one of the largest garment industry disasters in history, the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. Today also marks a national day of action 'Fashion Revolution Day' calling on people to challenge the high street supply chain and ask the consumers 'who made your clothes?' Rinsing through the articles on Fashion Revolution Day, I see a factory line up of repetitive words that regurgitate unchanged statistics around the Rana Plaza Incident. I, too, am guilty of this. Villainous companies turned superheroes boast of their good deeds in front of the camera as they tirelessly save the day by giving rights to their workers. So, ethical fashion is the new trend, with Vogue's article on fashion revolution day, it is scientifically confirmed that ethically sourcing your clothes is officially 'in'. Tell me then, what is the first thing you think of doing to show your support for ethical fashion. I know in my head, there's a cotton tote bag with a green recycling symbol on it lined up to carry my shopping periodically; "o-m-g no way, Vogue is talking about fashion revolution, let's get one of those 'green' t-shirts and/or Tote bag's, they are so in!"
Will it extend beyond that? Probably not. Should it? Absolutely. We need to stop thinking about the image of ethical fashion; the pastel coloured 'ethical' clothing slogans on t-shirts, and start thinking about the faces of the workers behind it. We should be thoughtful of our culpability as consumers in the Rana Plaza collapse, rather than how blameworthy the clothing retailers are. Where the change lies is in our buying power, know that it is up to you to provide fashion revolution about the workers. Do not let Fashion Revolution Day turn into a PR stunt for companies to continue a façade of supporting workers' rights. Make it solid, make it work, and we will see a change.
Make sure the momentum of #fashionrevolution carries on well after the one day. Don't make it a project that companies work on for a few hours annually, and then forget about. Carry your voice on and let the companies know that #fashionrevolution isn't a PR stunt that removes responsibility for improving workers' rights for the rest of the year. Know that every piece of clothing that you own, has a workers face behind it, not just a label. Make sure that that worker has rights. Make sure that worker is not being forced to sell the illusion that they are given rights.
So what can realistically do?
1. Change your consumer habits; it really isn't that hard. But know that you don't need to change your whole life, it's the small changes that count. Make it small and consistent.
2. Remember: you have the buying power. If there is a demand for ethical garments, there will be a supply; create this chain.
3. Again, remember that this will only happen if you make the conscious decision to put pressure on the brands to ensure the safety and a fair wage for their workers. Take a picture about why you are joining the revolution and tweet at your favourite brands #fashionrevolution
4. Humanise the whole process of buying. It is not a solo process which only affects you. Picking up something a garment from the shelf, whether it's sourced ethically or not, has a tremendous ripple effect.
April 24th. Fashion Revolution Day. Wear your clothes inside out. It starts tomorrow morning, don't make it end tomorrow night.
MADE in Europe's campaign 'Every Garment has a Name' seeks to campaign for the rights of workers on campaigning days like these. They aim to humanise the high street by changing attitudes of clothing retailers in the long run, and looking for long term solutions of lacking development through education. Check them out, and get involved!