Fashion Revolution, the world’s biggest ethical fashion action, takes place this year from April 23rd-29th.
Fashion Revolution was founded by two fashion designers after Rana Plaza, a massive garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed due to faulty architecture and safety compliance failures, killing more than 1,134 people and injuring 2,500.
Since then, components of the legally binding Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety – signed by over 200 retailers and fashion brands – have been put into effect, but as Hannah Theisen recently reported, numerous promised payments and protections have fallen by the wayside as Western consumers have lost interest in or forgotten Rana Plaza’s survivors.
And the problems don’t stop at Bangladesh.
An unfortunate side effect of poorly regulated Capitalism is that as regulations are enforced in some countries, manufacturing moves to countries with fewer worker protections. For instance, as Cambodian and Bangladeshi garment workers have received more rights and better wages, many of the world’s largest fashion companies have moved to Vietnam. The cycle will continue unless we as citizens and consumers step up and demand better.
It is time for us to realize that justice takes sacrifice, that it is not as easy as simply redirecting our purchases. Real progress will take political action: voting for leaders with a strong sense of ethics and transparency who recognize that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
And, as we’ve seen in the US in recent years, people who live here are not exactly thriving. Though we have strong labor laws, the working poor and undocumented immigrants slip through the cracks. There are sweatshops in the US. There are still slaves in the US, working in prisons and as nannies, farmhands, seamstresses, and sex workers.
A holistic ethic of human dignity demands that we see the big picture, and fight for the rights of those in our own communities at the same time that we fight for those in other countries.
It is time for us to recognize, too, the US’ complicity in much of the world’s depravity, from genocide in Guatemala to food shortages in Venezuela to building collapses in Bangladesh. Yes, other countries’ leaders need to step up, but that doesn’t make us innocent bystanders.
But back to Fashion Revolution: the event.
Fashion Revolution is a way to motivate the world to take the first step.
You can participate in several ways:
- Wear your clothing inside out and ask companies, “Who made my clothes?” on social media.
- Take a moment to read garment worker stories, available on the Fashion Revolution website.
- Try a #haulternative, the antidote to fast fashion, by swapping with friends, buying secondhand, or doing a DIY project with what you already have.
- Share a love story: share your love for an item that you’ve owned for a long time.
- Write your policy makers and your favorite brands.
What will I be doing?
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.