On 24 April 2013, 1133 people died in the Rana Plaza catastrophe in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A further 2500 were injured. They were killed while working for familiar fashion brands in one of the many ‘accidents’ that plague the garment industry.
Fashion Revolution is a global coalition of designers, academics, writers, business leaders and parliamentarians calling for systemic reform of the fashion supply chain. In short we believe that 1133 is too many people to lose from the planet in one factory, on one terrible day without that standing for something. Fashion Revolution sees the Rana Plaza disaster as a metaphorical call to arms, and Fashion Revolution Day, to be held annually on the 24th of April, will keep the most vulnerable in the supply chain in the public eye. We need it to show the world that change is possible. The true cost of the current fashion business model must not be forgotten: complacency and distraction means unless we stamp our resolve here and now, incidents such as Rana Plaza will be dismissed as an unfortunate reality of contemporary life. We must not allow that to happen.
We want to use the power of fashion to inspire a permanent change in the fashion industry and reconnect the broken links in the supply chain. At the moment of purchase, most of us are unaware of the processes and impacts involved in the creation of a garment. We need to reconnect through a positive narrative, to understand that we aren’t just purchasing a garment or accessory, but a whole chain of value and relationships. By asking consumers, designers, brands, and all those who care to ask a simple question “Who Made My Clothes?” we envisage a change in perspective that will lead to a deeper understanding of the social and environmental issues surrounding the garment industry.
"It takes a lot to make a garment. Not just the bits we hear about – the designers, the brands, the shops, the catwalk shows and the parties – but also the farmers who grow cotton, the ginners, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and other factory workers without whom the industry would not exist. These people, the people who make our clothes are hidden from us, often at their own expense.
The greatest cost these hidden people have to bear is to lose their life – as happened for the 1133 people in the Rana Plaza tragedy on 24 April 2013. This terrible accident acts as a symptom of the broken links across the fashion industry: we don’t know how things are made anymore. For Fashion Revolution, the Rana Plaza collapse has been a metaphorical call to arms. It has acted as a catalyst for those of us wanting to see change and demanding that the fashion industry takes a leading role in achieving it.
Fashion Revolution is about building a future where an accident like this never happens again. We believe knowing who made our clothes is the first step in transforming the fashion industry. Knowing who made our clothes requires transparency, and this implies openness, honesty, communication and accountability. It’s about re-connecting broken links and celebrating the relationship between shoppers and the people who make our clothes, shoes, accessories and jewellery – all the things we call fashion.
For 2015, we are focussing on transparency.
TRANSPARENCY: What does it mean?
Transparency means companies know who makes their clothes – at least where they are stitched as a first port of call - and then communicate this to their customers, shareholders and staff.
We are focussing specifically on supply chain transparency; by this we do not mean financial or governance. And by supply chain, we mean all those involved in making goods. A report from Baptist World Aid Australia found that 61% of companies don’t know where their garments are made. It’s time to change that stat!
Transparency is not easy, it involves fully understanding how your business runs and with whom it works and then making that information publicly available. This is a journey for our industry and we want to celebrate those who are doing something about it.
Here are some ways that companies can demonstrate their commitment to transparency:
1. Showcase positive examples of brand/producer relationships.
2. Make one product transparent. Companies could do this through tools like Provenance, Caretrace or QR codes.
3. Make at least one supply chain transparent. Companies could do this through tools like String , Sourcemap or Cotton Connect.
4. Map out all your suppliers.
5. Document this in an internal database, at least your company knows itself.
6. Publish all your suppliers publicly.
We recognize that being transparent is difficult. As a business, you might fear transparency because you don’t want it to jeopardize your competitiveness, or because you might not be able to answer workers or suppliers if questions are asked, or because it might uncover issues you don’t know how to resolve.
But we live in an era when personal and corporate secrets can be unraveled with a few lines of code or clicks of the mouse, and so today, it is only a matter of time before the public discovers the facts. Transparency therefore is an issue of brand reputation. There’s no excuse anymore. As a company, your greatest fear should be that more tragedies like Rana Plaza will happen again, and you’ll be complicit. Fashion Revolution is here to help companies see through these fears. We're here to show that knowing who makes your clothes is a first important step towards ensuring these kinds of tragedies are no longer possible.
Not only is transparency about understanding and reducing any risk to your company reputation but it can also be good for business. Knowing who makes your clothes and where, being in better touch with your supply chain, means you can understand it more clearly and make more informed business decisions. Everyone keeping companies accountable together
To be truly transparent, we also need to be accountable so that we and others can be sure what we say is true. Fashion Revolution Day is not holding companies to account, that is the job of customers and certifiers. Fashion Revolution is here to celebrate the companies who are doing one of these things to be more transparent about who makes their clothes. It’s up to shoppers to make sure companies are doing what they say they are.
Our vision on development aid in 3 questions
How can each of us make a difference?
Join us on Fashion Revolution Day on 24 April 2015 to ask Who Made My Clothes? BE CURIOUS: We need to become more curious about how our clothes are made and who made them. FIND OUT: Get in contact with brands and ask them ‘Who Made My Clothes'. Post a selfie wearing an item of clothing inside-out on social media and ask the brands Who Made My Clothes? #FashRev Let us know if you get an answer. DO SOMETHING: We want hundreds of thousands of people around the world to take part. Together we can use the power of fashion to inspire change and reconnect the broken links in the supply chain