In April of 2013, Bangladesh experienced a catastrophic loss. The Rana Plaza building, also known as the Dhaka garment factory, collapsed due to a structural failure. With over 1,000 total deaths and at least 2,500 injured, it became known as one of the largest industrial disasters in history. It did not take long until protests began. From Bangladesh to the Philippines, exploited workforces rushed to the streets to stand up against harsh working conditions. Oversees countries, especially in Asia and Africa, are known for having extensive populations subjected to working for the mass production of fashion. Precipitating the Dhaka garment factory collapse, two innovative women began a movement: Fashion Revolution.
The Fashion Revolution, a response to the tragedy, is a campaign that focuses entirely on promoting sustainable fashion. It is notable for its trendy hashtag ‘#whomademyclothes’. It gives a spotlight to workers, like those in the Rana Plaza, that make the bulk of the resources large-scale brands utilize to mass produce the clothes we see in stores. It calls to action for consumers to pay more attention to where their clothes come from and to understand the cautions such factory employees are subjected to while earning little for their work. Often the compensation for what they do is overlooked and campaigns like the Fashion Revolution are frontiers for common consumers to take a step back and care about those workers. Those workers are generally responsible for a majority of how mass production in fashion continues today, but it is not something new. There exists a history of campaigns against the human labor workforce since the rise of industrialization across the world. However, even in the 21st century, the world still revolves around the exploitation of a lesser group. Fashion is no stranger to such campaigns. Brands have gotten away with oversees production of their products, paying very little to make expensive clothes. This pattern of behavior is what we consider today to be fast fashion. Campaigns such as the Fashion Revolution are here to combat that.
Sustainable fashion is a diverse umbrella term. It deals with a plethora of concerns in regards to today’s fashion industry, whether it is about the way clothes are created to the way clothes are used or discarded. In this case, movements like the Fashion Revolution are concerned with how mass production in the industry exists. The average consumer often overlooks that to mass produce clothes, it takes a great deal of both industrial and natural resources. From excessive water usage and pollution from cargo travel to the little wages and long hours of people in offshore factories, the mass production of clothes hides a dark secret. In everyday fashion and consumption, the go-go-go attitude to stay with consistently changing trends is a major incentive for big retail brands to continue the way they produce clothes. However, in the recent years, sustainability has grown a substantial following.
A change in the fast fashion industry is a must. Whether it’s the Fashion Revolution or in the sustainability movement – both go hand in hand with each other – fashion plays an imperative role in our footprint on this earth. Brands and consumers are beginning to strive for change in the attitudes towards fashion, that, despite the accessibility of fast fashion, conscious consumption is a practice that is necessary. It is vital to stand against the age-old practices of fast fashion and mass production. Eco-friendly and ethical choices are much easier to make than one would think. Information on where your clothes came from and who/what made them should not be something that major retail brands and chains keep a secret. Sustainability does not just begin end with the way clothes are produced. Sustainability is a concern for all aspects of fashion: the source, the production, and the consumption. The collaborative efforts between producers and consumers is the only way we can see significant change in the fashion industry, because fashion is never going to go away. Fashion is meant to be an expression, a celebration of life. It should not be something that continues to disregard those that play an important role in keeping it moving.
Perhaps next time you buy an article of clothing, whether it’s a brand new pair of jeans or a sweater, ask yourself: “Who made my clothes?”