Do you know who made your clothes, where its materials came from, or anything about the processes used to create them? Our favorite global movement, Fashion Revolution, is offering a complimentary online course this summer that urges individuals to be curious, find out, and do something about the current state of the fashion industry!
We enjoyed Fashion Revolution Week (4/23 - 4/29) so much this year we feel driven to highlight this world-wide non-profit on the blog. See below for a little Q & A with Heather Knight, a graphic designer who works on branding, design, and communications for Fashion Revolution. In this interview, Heather shares why slow fashion matters, discusses the changes we've seen in the industry so far, and sheds light on what we can do to transform the world.
1. We are so stoked to discover Fashion Revolution just launched a free online course. What topics are on the itinerary? Will it be available again for those who may not have signed up during the enrollment period?
Discover your inner fashion detective! The course will invite you to investigate "who made my clothes?", where it came from and from what materials. By the end of the course, you'll better understand the issues in the fashion supply chain and know how to make a positive change. You can enroll right up to and including week beginning 20th August. However, if you don't have time to do the course this summer, you could still enroll and purchase an upgrade for £32 ($38) to access the course any time.
2. Clothing seems to be primarily based on exterior appearances. What were some of the issues that brought the focus in on the internal aspects of the fashion industry?
The Rana Plaza factory collapsed in April 2013, killing 1138 people, and injuring many more. The tragedy could have been preventable; the building wasn’t up to health and safety standards, like so many factories still operating today. It was a big wake-up call for the fashion industry; most brands didn't know what was going on in their own supply chains. That’s when Fashion Revolution was born. Enough is enough — we need a safer, fairer, more transparent fashion industry.
3. Have you noticed any shifts in garment making since the birth of Fashion Revolution, five years ago? If so, what?
Since Fashion Revolution started, 5 years ago, more people have demanded a better fashion industry. And it's working. Brands are listening and the industry is starting to change. Now over 150 big brands are publishing the names and locations of the factories where their clothes are made, and we hope that more will do the same. More than 1,300 factories have been inspected and upgraded for safety in Bangladesh since Rana Plaza, and 1.8 million garment workers have received factory safety information thanks to the Bangladesh Accord on Building & Fire Safety. Several garment-exporting countries have raised minimum wages within the past five years. The Bangladesh government has delivered a 77% increase in the minimum wage to $68 per month for garment workers but this is still far away from a living wage. In fact, 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. ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) was launched by our partner IndustriALL Global Union. It is a ground-breaking agreement between global brands and retailers and trade unions to achieve living wages for workers through industry-wide collective bargaining linked to purchasing practices. Thus far 18 big brands and retailers have signed up. Through our campaign, more and more producers are becoming visible and sharing their stories. A lot has improved, but there's still a long, long way to go.
Our clothes are still being made in factories that are lacking basic health and safety requirements. There is still slavery, there is still child labour, discrimination, and harassment. But to change those things, we need companies to be more accountable, and that means being more transparent; publishing factory lists, processes, and practices. This is why we need to keep asking #whomademyclothes.
4. Why does slow fashion matter, and what are some ways we can "break up" with fast fashion for good?
We need to radically change the way we source, produce and purchase our clothing. We now have more clothes in our wardrobes than ever before and are disposing of them at a faster pace than any other time in history. We now buy 60% more clothing than we did 15 years ago, but only keep them for half as long. And 40% of those clothes are rarely or never worn! We don’t value our clothes and we’ve lost the connection between the clothes and the people who make them. We need to rethink our relationship with our clothes. Our 'love story' project, invites people to share the story of an item of clothing they cherish and will never throw away. We want to inspire people to buy less and take a stand against disposable fashion, and to make their #lovedclotheslast. Our haulternative project challenges you to 8 different ways to refresh your wardrobe without buying new, from charity shops to clothes swapping, to making-and-mending, and reinventing old clothes. We want to show there’s a better, more fun, and often cheaper way to find clothes.
5. What can we do to help support Fashion Revolution?
Our motto is 'be curious, find out, do something'. Start by asking more questions about the clothes you buy and wear. We have a tool on our website that allows you to email brands and ask #whomademyclothes. It only takes 2 mins! We have loads of resources on our website that help you take positive action. You could write a postcard to your local policymaker, asking them what they're doing to make fashion safer. Find out what's happening in your local area, get in touch with your local Country Coordinator and get involved. Spread the word with your friends, family, and colleagues! You can also donate to help power our movement. Even the smallest donation will help us continue creating inspiring resources and push for positive change.
6. What's the biggest overall lesson you've learned in being involved with a non-profit?
A movement is about the people. Involve and amplify your community.
7. Best piece of advice you've ever received growing up?
Eat your greens.
8. Name a woman who you admire and why.
Kalpona Akter, a former child worker in Bangladesh’s garment factories. Now the founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity (BCWS), she campaigns for fair wages, garment factory safety, and the right to form labor unions and collectively bargain.
9. What are the most critical change(s) that must be made in the fashion industry?
To change anything, we first need transparency in the fashion industry. We can't fix what we can't see. Our Fashion Transparency Index ranks the top global fashion brands according to how much they publish about their suppliers. We've seen a 5% increase in transparency since last year, but there's still a long journey ahead.
10. What does the world need more of? Less of?
More equality. Less exploitation.
11. What tool, object or ritual could you not live without in your workday?
A strong cup of tea.
12. What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
I get through a LOT of 70% dark chocolate on a daily basis.
Want to be involved in The Revolution? Sign up for the free online course here. Enrollment is open through Aug 20th, and the class is scheduled to take three weeks- though you're able to work through it at your own pace. In this course, you will explore universal garment working conditions, get to know the origins of clothing from farmer to consumer, and connect with folks from across the globe who believe in a fashion industry that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure. (Reading classmates comments on each assignment is definitely one of our favorite takeaways from this online experience! It's incredible to add everybody's insight into our own frame of reference. Heather said it best, "A movement is about the people. Involve and amplify your community.")
Thanks for chatting with us Heather, we appreciate your time and effort involved in FashionRev more than you know! To learn more about Heather, check her bio.
For more information about #FashionRev, visit FashionRevolution.Org
P.S. This is Phi, she made your @fauxgerty clothes out of sustainable fabric in St. Louis, MO! Our seamstresses are paid 36% above the regional standard, with family-friendly schedules and paid time off. Thank you, Phi, for all that you do! #WhyGoFaux