Enough is Enough! On 24th April 2013, the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed, which killed 1138 people and injured many more. On this day, Carry Somers started Fashion Revolution and invited people to turn their shirt inside out, to show the label, and to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes (the hashtag was shared already more than 230.000 times on Instagram). Brands and producers were encouraged to respond with the hashtag #IMadeYourClothes. Since then, the Fashion Revolution Week was born. And we thank Carry for this revolution week to support a fairer, cleaner, and slower fashion industry! Now, scroll further to read our interview with Carry.
PROFESSION: Founder and Global Operations Director of Fashion Revolution
CITY: Rudyard, UK
FAVORITE CITY: Oaxaca
FAVORITE HOT SPOT: Mexico
3 ITEMS IN MY HANDBAG: Branscombe lace handkerchief, made by my grandmother, Nars lipstick in Casablanca, keys to my Figaro.
I NEVER TRAVEL WITHOUT: My Knomo wheeled travel tote. Stylish and capacious!
ROLE MODEL: Anita Roddick
1. What inspires and motivates you to do what you do?
Carry: I am inspired and motivated by the people who make our clothes all around the world – the weavers, dyers, embroiderers, cotton farmers, seamstresses, spinners, union leaders. Last year 3600 organisations posted photographs and videos on social media with the hashtag #ImadeYourClothes. Fashion Revolution gives visibility and a platform to tell the stories and celebrate the work of these producers. The more visible the people are who make our clothes, the fewer places there are to hide poor working conditions.
2. One thing you would like to change in the politics regarding the fashion industry?
Carry: How to choose one thing? We still have a long way to go until everyone who makes our clothes can live and work with dignity, in healthy conditions and without fear of losing their life. Poverty, human rights abuses, unfair wages, discrimination, lack of union representation, environmental pollution, waste and lack of transparency all remain endemic within fashion. However, if I have to choose one thing to change, it would be the lack of transparency. Transparent disclosure makes it easier for all the relevant parties to understand what went wrong, who is responsible and how to fix it. When consumers are equipped with more — and better quality, credible — information about the human and environmental impacts of the clothes they buy, they are able to make more informed shopping choices. As a result, transparency builds consumer trust in the brands they buy.
3. What do you say to girls and women who say: “Fair Fashion is not sexy or I don’t know where to shop ethical fashion or I can not afford it!“ ?
Carry: Fashion can provide independence and an income for young women in developing countries, but our Garment Worker Diaries project has found that in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India many garment workers are not even being paid the legal minimum wage. Three quarters of those questioned in a YouGov/Global Poverty Project survey said they would be likely to pay an extra 5% for their clothes if there was a guarantee workers were being paid fairly and working in safe conditions. It has been estimated that putting as little as 25p onto the cost of a garment made in Bangladesh would provide the producers with a living wage and pay for factories to meet fire and building safety standards.
Moreover, cheap prices make us believe they bring about savings for consumers. This may appear true in the short-term, with a narrow focus and looking just at the money in our wallets, but all of us, as global citizens, will ultimately end up paying the external cost, the true cost of the unsustainable consumption and production of cheap clothing. The negative impacts of unsustainable production may not be localised or currently visible, but they will ultimately have a profound impact on our world.
In our Garment Worker Diaries project which interviewed 540 garment workers every week over the course of last year, 40% of workers had seen a fire in their factory.
4. How do you see the future of the fashion industry?
Carry: Five years since Rana Plaza, hundreds of factories in Bangladesh have made been made safer. However, 2017 was still a deadly year for workers in Bangladesh with 426 people dying in 321 workplace accidents. We recognise that change will not take place overnight, but the pace of change needs to be faster. In our Garment Worker Diaries project which interviewed 540 garment workers every week over the course of last year, 40% of workers had seen a fire in their factory. Every day people are risking their lives to make our clothes. This is why we still need a Fashion Revolution and are planning to make this Fashion Revolution Week bigger and bolder than ever before.
As consumers, we can also play our part in shaping the future of fashion. Consuming is about fulfilling needs and one of our fundamental needs is the need to belong. I believe this need can be satisfied not just through buying beautiful garments, but also by building connections with the people who made our clothes. Knowing the story and seeing the faces behind a garment will help to satisfy our need for identity and participation far more than affiliation to any brand or logo. Consumer demand can revolutionise the way fashion works as an industry. Every time we buy an item of clothing, we can help to reshape people’s lives the length of the fashion supply chain, right down to the cotton farmer. If everyone started to question the way in which we consume, we could see a radically different fashion paradigm.
Learn more about Fashion Revolution and how to get involved, here.
Antonia Böhlke is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of MOCHNI.