It is the tail end of Fashion Revolution week. Fashion Revolution is an UK based organization that was founded to bring awareness to the unethical and environmentally harmful practices of the fashion industry. The organization is basically everything that I am about.
Fashion Revolution is calling for greater transparency in the fashion industry. They are trying to make the general public, particularly in the West, aware of the conditions of people who make our clothes.
I don't care much about fashion, but my personal style is an important aspect of my self-expression. But I don't believe that my self-expression should come at the cost of other people. No five dollar t-shirt is worth mass scale human exploitation. No skirt is worth violating people's human rights.
About five years ago, I was working in a charter school. At the time, the kids were reading about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. For those who don't know, on March 25, 1911, 146 people were killed in a fire that broke out in Shirtwaist Factory in Manhattan. The owners had a habit of locking the doors during working hours, in order to prevent the workers from leaving or taking breaks.
Unfortunately, one day, a fire broke out in the factory. Because the doors were locked, the workers were unable to escape. As a result, many people resorted to jumping out of windows in order to escape.
The factory workers were mostly Jewish and Italian women. Recent immigrants to the US who were searching for opportunity--which left them highly vulnerable to exploitation. And in the end, it was they who paid the ultimate price with their lives.
In December of 2012, a year after I had been working in the school, there was a fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh. A few months later on April 24, 2013, there was another building collapse in Rana Plaza--also in Bangladesh. 1,137 people have been confirmed dead and over a year later, over 200 people were still missing.
With the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster fresh in my mind, I couldn't help but make the connection. It seemed that business had moved on, becoming smarter and slicker having found new prey to exploit.
In the time since, things have not gotten much better. There have been several more fires and collapses all over the world.
So, what's a girl to do? For me, the answer was simple. From 2012 till now, I have sought to limit my consumption of clothing companies whose business practices were unclear. I've also opted to buy most of my clothes second hand.
At this point, I would say that 85-90% of the things I own are from thrift stores. And if I find that I must shop in a mainstream store, I try to buy high quality items that I will use with consistency and keep for years. At least that way, I have minimized my impact on the environment.
I am also researching other type of clothing brands such as lingerie and athleisure. The holy grail would be to find ethically and environmentally made sneakers. Because the abuses of companies like Nike are well documented.
So what can you do?
Firstly, do your own research. There is a wealth of information regarding the treatment of factory workers worldwide. Next, find community! Getting involved in fashion revolution week is a great way to find like-minded people and help create a larger impact.
If you want to participate in Fashion Revolution Week, take a selfie with one of your favorite items of clothes and post it to Instagram. @ the store and ask them "Who Made My Clothes?"
Let's all join together to take care of our fellow man and hold these companies accountable.