Fashion Revolution Day

Two years ago, on the 24th April 2013, 1133 people were killed and over 2500 injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They were working there to make the clothes that we all buy on the High Street. We don't know who these makers are, and yet we wear their handiwork everyday. The Fashion Revolution movement poses the question, 'Who made your clothes?'

 

Fashion Revolution

 

The tag 'eco-fashion' is bandied about so much that it can lose its meaning. What does 'eco-fashion' entail, and what's the point in it? There are so many necessary avenues to explore when it comes to sustainability and ethical conduct that it is immensely difficult to control all aspects. With the incredible heirarchy of the fashion industry, not one person controls everything and so consequently, there's a major lack in transparency.

 

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So, #whomadeyourclothes? Check the label on the garments that you're wearing now. They'll have an overall, 'Made in Bangladesh', 'Made in Vietnam', 'Made in China' label - but these are large countries, and aren't they forgetting everything else that goes into making a garment? Where did the virgin materials come from, where was the metal for the zip made, what thread is used and where was it spun... so many hands touch each item of clothing, that an overall label doesn't do all of that hard work justice. When questioning who made your clothes, look holistically.

 

Children at St. Mary's Catholic Primary School in Chiswick take a look at their labels Children at St. Mary's Catholic Primary School in Chiswick take a look at their labels

 

Of course, you may be a dressmaker and think, 'Well, I made my clothes'. It's incredibly important to look at the full picture. Where did the virgin fibres come from to make the fabric, the thread, the buttons and, if you're so inclined to look further, the electricity that allowed you to make your clothes. Just because we as homemakers shop less from chain brands doesn't mean that we should be any less involved in understanding the impact we're also having on resources and on humanity. There are so many possibilities for lowering your impact. Many of you will already buy organic food produce, you may cycle or have a hybrid car, and you'll probably recycle too. Yet, "the direct value of the UK fashion industry to the UK economy is £26 billion; up from £21 billion in 2009" (British Fashion Council). This is great news for the economy, but it means that more of us are buying fashion - whether from the High Street or from small businesses so, at what cost is this increase on the economy to ethical conduct and our environment?

As a maker then, what can you do to lower your own impact? If every person makes one small change, it can have a ripple effect - as is evident with lowering plastic bag usage. The biggest change you could make is to lower your amount of High Street shopping - buy staples, but buy them well. Truly consider each piece of clothing you pick up before you buy, assessing firstly whether you could make it yourself (and consequently imbue the garment with your own personality), whether it is constructed well (and so stand the test of time), what the fabric composition is (look at the properties of synthetic and natural fibres) and if you will be able to care for it correctly. Here at Ray Stitch we are admittedly all suckers for COS, yet we look at the garments and think, 'I can make that' - it just ends up being a question of whether we can find a fabric to suit the style, and also, if it's actually practical (neoprene isn't exactly suitable for day-to-day wear...)

 

Honest by. is the world's first transparent clothing brand - they document every component that goes into making each garment, along with the full cost breakdown and transparent pricing Honest by. is the world's first transparent clothing brand - they document every component that goes into making each garment, along with the full cost breakdown and transparent pricing

 

It's not enough though, to just attempt to recreate what we find in shops. We have the skills and the imagination to create something with real clout. By making something yourself, you gain satisfaction when the piece is completed (once you've gotten over the hassle of that tricky zip) and so your wellbeing is increased. By choosing each individual aspect of your make, you have full control (perhaps then, full blame if it goes wrong too); full control over the personality of the garment, the composition and maybe most importantly, the life cycle. If we buy something cheap, it's likely not to last through copious washing and wear, and because it was cheap, we're less likely to be emotionally attached to it as we could just buy it again or buy something similar. The same could happen with more costly purchases, however - it's all about the balance and the awareness of what you're buying and what you're making.

We see our customers and Sewing School students being so much more satisfied with their makes than with their shop buys, as you can choose the fabric, alter the sizing and adapt patterns (or create from scratch) for your own style and shape and, brag about them - making becomes an extension of our being and we become so involved in it that rather than being a hobby, making things adds importance to our life. We are by no means preaching that you should stop buying clothing from shops - buying fabric and supplies to make clothing is still adding to the effect on the environment, but we just hope to raise awareness and invoke understanding on Fashion Revolution Day (and beyond) that by questioning the effect making and shopping has on our self and on others is pretty much obligatory if we are to witness a change in standards.

For some further reading, check out Lucy Siegle's informative (and honestly quite horrific) book 'To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World' as well as Kate Fletcher's two highly detailed and inspirationally written books, 'Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys' and 'Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change'. For something a little bit heavier but all-round sustainable design practice book, look at Michael Braungart and William McDonough's 'Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things'.

Sustainable Fashion reading

So, who made your clothes?

If you're based in London, there are so many events going on today and tomorrow to get involved with. If you're outside of the capital, you can still share your photos of your labels, your thread, your zips and your fabric on Twitter with #whomademyclothes #FashRev and #insideout

 

Words by Steph.