“We want people around the world to show us their clothing labels and ask #WhoMadeMyClothes; we want every stakeholder in the fashion supply chain—retailers, brands, factories, private label manufacturers—to show us the people who make our clothes and answer #IMadeYourClothes,” she told Ecouterre.
“We want real answers,” she added. “We are asking about people, not policy. We want to see their faces, or at least find out where the factories are. We don’t just want a link to the brand’s [corporate social responsibility] page on their website.”
Sounds simple enough, right? Not for the countless brands and retailers whose planet-spanning supply chains are opaque even to them.
In fact, as many as 48 percent of fashion companies haven’t traced where their products are made, according to Behind the Barcode, a series of industry reports conducted by Baptist World Aid Australia to promote ethical consumption.
In a survey of 219 brands last year, Behind the Barcode found that 75 percent of them didn’t know where their fabrics came from, let alone the origins of raw materials such as cotton, which is particularly vulnerable to child and forced labor.
WE SEE YOU
“We believe that rebuilding the broken links across the whole supply chain, from farmer to consumer, is the only way to transform the entire industry.” Somers said. “Fashion Revolution aims to bring everyone together to make that happen.”
“We need to see an increasing number of brands make their supply chains more transparent because we can’t tackle exploitation until we can see it,” she continued. “We want to see the faces and hear the stories of thousands of farmers, makers, and producers.”
Fashion Revolution suggests that fashion lovers skip the usual roundup of their recent purchases and shoot a #Haulternative video, instead.
A downloadable guide provides theme ideas (examples include “Love Story,” “Broken and Beautiful,” and “Fashion Fix”), supporting facts and resources, and even customizable scripts.
“The #Haulternative is a different kind of haul; a way of refreshing your wardrobe without buying new clothes, from upcycling to swaps to finding gems in charity shops,” Somers said. “We launched the #Haulternative last year, with YouTube vloggers including Noodlerella, CutiePieMarzia, and Shameless Maya and had almost 2 million views.”
ALL TOGETHER NOW
But that’s not all Somers and company have planned. This year, Fashion Revolution will be launching its inaugural “Transparency Index,” an assessment of the supply chains of 40 leading fashion brands.
The organization is also bringing together policy makers, apparel brands, retailers, members of the press, and other influencers for a “Fashion Question Time” at the Houses of Parliament in London. (Follow the hashtag #FQT for live updates on on April 18.)
Other events include a three-day conference in Madrid, a film festival in South Africa, a flashmob fashion show in San Francisco, plus numerous movie screenings, pop-up stores, panel discussions, and clothing swaps across the globe.
Cue the dramatic record scratch…
If you haven’t already heard, H&M recently announced that World Recycle Week, an initiative by the Swedish retailer to recycle 1,000 tons of unwanted clothing, will also take place during those seven days.
Fashion Revolution has called out H&M, the largest producer of garments in Bangladesh, for its insensitive timing, which the retailer declares is completely coincidental.
FASHION FAUX PAS
“This week, of all weeks, H&M should be working in solidarity with the rest of us to mark the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy,” de Castro said. “It should be a time for us all to honor garment workers, those who have died in all industrial tragedies in the garment industry, and those who are still suffering the the fashion supply today.”
There’s more: Fashion Revolution also pointed out what it calls “misleading language,” which it says overstates the impact of H&M’s recycling initiative. The vouchers that H&M uses to reward customers who recycle are another sticking point, de Castro says, since they only encourage further overconsumption and result in even more potential waste.
“Don’t ask H&M to collect used clothing, ask them to make less clothing, better made, made by hands that have benefited from learning new skills to make quality, not disposable garments,” de Castro told us.
“Ask them to import dignity of toil to their supply chain workers, so that sewing something, and growing the cotton plant from which this something is made from, comes with pride,” she said. “Ask them to stop reselling your seconds to countries where all textile artisanal skills are being lost, replaced by our rubbish.”
Still, there’s a semi–happy ending to H&M’s scheduling faux pas. The retailer has promised not to double-book the same week for any future events.
“As soon as Fashion Revolution made us aware of their concerns, we clearly communicated that we do not have the intention to build this particular week as a recurring World Recycle Week in the future,” an H&M spokesman said. “[We] immediately offered to choose another week if we were to do another World Recycle Week campaign next or in the coming years.”