As the month of November brings with it a defiant spirit of remembrance and nostalgia, the Fashion Compassion team would like to reflect on the hardships suffered by many within the supply chains of the Global Textile Industry. In particular, while Fashion brings us choice and a channel to express individuality, it accommodates many shades of grey that remain to be addressed by both political and commercial circles.
Last year saw the tragic Rana Plaza Diasater in Bangladesh which toke the lives of over 1,138 garment workers, while in 2016, the Syrian Refugee Crisis has brought with it opportunities for unethical human exploitation, as the BBC reported several weeks ago, indicating the dangers of our cultural appetite for fast fashion that replicates the latest seasonal trends, while placing significant cost on our planet and poorer communities in the developing world.
Despite the solum tone however, there is still hope, as passionate innovators and creators initiate campaigns to promote sustainability and fair trade, with Brands like HnM and organisations like the Ethical Fashion Forum and the Wage Alliance. So when you pin a poppy to the lapel of your winter coat, or you read of the memorial events that took place this weekend, the ultimate message is to remember not only past lives, but also present ones. The people that make Fashion as an industry possible, from skilled seamstresses and renowned designers to retail employees and garment workers that work 14 hour days. We all have a part to play in this global mosaic.
Celebrate the month with red adornment and check out our picks from Fashion Compassion!
Spotlight on Closet Sharing: Recycling Fashion is the New, Sustainable Way to Shop
The holidays are all about spending – spending things like time and money in the spirit of giving and loving. In our efforts, we end up becoming hyper-consumptive and are swayed by commercials and trends all convincing us that we need to be shopping in order to show our loved ones just how much we care. Shopping, however, is not the problem – consumerism is.
Luckily, there is always a sustainable solution out there. Online platforms such as Bib + Tuck and Swapdom offer the option of sharing your closet and recycling fashion. Functioning without actual monetary exchange, these sites are based wholly on the exchange of goods. When you sell something, you can purchase something else using the value of the item you have sold without dealing with the messy back and forth of money shifting. The hosts of the exchange handle all shipping, merchandising, and operations that make this process as smooth as possible.
Sari Azout and Sari Bibliowicz, founders of Bib + Tuck, Vogue.
At Bib + Tuck, you can “bib”, or sell, your last season Chanel booties and “tuck”, or buy, someone else’s brand new Missoni sweater. The two founders of the company, Sari and Sari, met in preschool and twenty years later, were still sharing closets. Living in New York, they realized that it was more sensible to exchange clothes than buy new ones and thus, the concept was born.
Swapdom works in a very similar way. You can offer items of your own, and request items from another. You are not confined to buying or selling items in pairs, but rather you can interact across the network. Your swap must be approved by both parties and you only have to pay shipping for the item you receive, not the item you have sold. There is no bargaining involved and your personal valuation is the only one that matters. Additionally, Swapdom is a B2B (Business to Business) company that regards the individuals participating in the trade as the business involved, rather than have themselves as a third-party supplier. With their seamless transactions and smart business solutions, Swapdom has developed into a hub climate for online shoppers.
Taken from the Swapdom website.
This season, think about cleaning out your closet instead of adding to the clutter. Save some money and promote sustainability – remember, fashion is recyclable too!
In Sunday’s Independent newspaper, fashion editor Alexander Fury wrote a short column entitled ‘Once upon a time, fashion was for normal folk – wasn’t it?’. In his piece, Fury argues that catwalk fashion ‘bears little resemblance to the clobber of the normal folk’ – that the current fashion culture has become “detached” from everyday life.
Alexander Fury is the fashion editor of The Independent. Image source: Husk Magazine.
Fury goes on to say that fashion has only ever really served one purpose – to produce clothes that depict an idealistic, almost “romantic”, version of the individuals who wear them. Fashionable clothes, according to Fury, are “representations of the people they want to be, or the people they wanted other people to think they were”.
We wanted to respond to some of the points highlighted by this piece. Here are some of our initial thoughts:
Clothes DO say a lot about us.
Whatever your style, be it trendsetter or trendavoider, your clothes speaks volumes about you as an individual. They also make a statement about your views and beliefs. And, whilst people may wear on-trend clothes to impress others, many do not.
Designer collections are STILL influential
While they may not be to everybody’s taste, runaway collections are still dictating seasonal trends and motifs in the mainstream market. If you look in any popular glossy magazine, the ‘How to get the Catwalk look for Highstreet prices’ features still have widespread appeal amongst the readership.
Ethical fashion IS relevant
Over the last few years, it has become clearer that fashion should be for everyone, including the people involved in the production process. As a result, certain industry attitudes towards the everyday buyer and garment worker need to be changed drastically.
By paying a fair wage and protecting human rights, sustainable fashion not only sets a high moral standard for the fashion industry but also for the everyday consumer, allowing them to “connect” to the workers who made their clothes and help them make informed choices about their fashion purchases.
What do you think? Is fashion for normal people? Let us know in the comments!
"To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity."
- Nelson Mandela
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being".  Human rights are, therefore, often thought of as being universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). Sadly, this is not always the case in the world of fashion.
The Rana Plaza complex, an eight-storey building housing garment factories, collapsed outside the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka in April 2013.
Since the collapse of Rana Plaza factory in April of this year, the world's media has been full of heated debates about the fashion industry and its relationship with human rights. Fashion ComPassion got involved in the discussions early on when our founder and director, Ayesha Mustafa, spoke Sky News soon after the collapse about what needed to be done to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
More than a thousand garment workers died when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed. Photo by PA.
When interviewed for the documentary, Kalpona Akter, from the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, said, "Behind these labels, there are human faces. And those humans should be treated as a human. Not like equipment. Not like a slave".
We complete agree with Kalpona. No one should ever be treated as if they are just worthless or expendable pieces of machinery. Drastic change needs to happen in the fashion industry.
For too long, high street chains have complain about how difficult it is for them to improve working conditions and human rights in their factories. They will often resort to the claim that they do want to make changes but cannot as there is no demand for it or that their customers don’t want it. From their perspective, the responsibility for the current 'fast fashion' culture lies solely with the consumer. It’s become their get out clause.
This kind of response is complete and utter nonsense. Furthermore, such a response is dangerous. It overlooks the fact that slavery, poverty and disaster happens at the higher end of the fashion too.
The War On Want's 'Exploitation. It’s Not Ok Here. It’s Not Ok Anywhere' campaign, targeted Adidas, linking the 2012 Olympic sponsor with sweatshop labour.
In an interview for the film Apparel Truth, a trade union leader in Bangladesh is very clear where the responsibility lies, saying that “...the main profit from this business is going to the multi-national company…The multinational company is putting pressure on the local business to pay a living wage. But also the multinational company is putting pressure on the local business to reduce their price.”
In other words, the global fashion brands DO have a role in creating change and protecting the rights of their workers. We need to start putting pressure on these brands to change their ways and to stop human right abuses which is happening in their factories.
That’s not to say consumers have no role to play in creating change in the fashion industry.
The 1% Campaign calls on the fashion industry to invest 1% of their profits in solving issues in their supply chain, especially around human rights.
People power is incredibly important. Even one person can make a difference. That's why Fashion Mob have launched The 1% Campaign. This campaign, founded by Esther Freeman (editor of Ms Wanda's Wardrobe), calls on the fashion companies to invest a minimum of 1% of their profits to ensure the human rights of garment workers are properly protected. Fashion companies need to spend more time and investment in activities like better auditing, health and safety training and improved working with NGOs, in order to provide their workers a safe environment to work in.
As consumers, we are in an incredibly powerful position to demand this. And, if we all work together, we can help bring about a solution which will prevent tragedies like Rana Plaza from happening ever again.
Get involved and sign the 1% Campaign petition and demand that multinational companies take responsibility for what happens in their name.
* This post is part of the Human Friendly Fashion Bloggers initiative by Ms Wanda's Wardrobe. Part of this blog was adapted from an interview with Esther Freeman about The 1% Campaign. On 16th October, bloggers around the world will come together to talk about fashion and human rights, as part of Blog Action Day. Be part of the conversation and get involved!*
1. Sepúlveda, Magdalena; van Banning, Theo; Gudmundsdóttir, Gudrún; Chamoun, Christine; van Genugten, Willem J.M. (2004). "Human rights reference handbook" (3rd ed. rev. ed.). Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica: University of Peace p.3
Last week, the BBC aired 'Panorama - Dying For A Bargain', a current affairs documentary which investigated how our clothes in the UK were really made. The investigation found evidence of shocking working conditions and an industry that still puts profit before safety. Back in April, more than a thousand garment workers died when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed.
Reporter Richard Bilton went back to Bangladesh to see if there had been any change in garment industry since the Rana Plaza collapse back in April.
5 months on, reporter Richard Bilton went back to see if there had been any changes in the ready to wear industry. Secret filming by the Panorama team discovered that people working 19 hour days, security guards who lock in the workers and factory owners who hide the truth from western retailers.
More than a thousand garment workers died when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed in April. Photo by PA.
Along with the undercover filming of unsafe and dangerous factory conditions, Richard Bilton also spoke to a number of industry experts and campaigners including Sam Maher from Labour Behind The Label, and Kalpona Akter, from the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. Kalpona said 'Behind these labels, there are human faces. And those humans should be treated as a human. Not like equipment. Not like a slave'.
BBC Panorama conducted secret filming in Bangladesh garment factories. Image by BBC.
This powerful documentary reiterates the need for drastic change in the clothing industry. But what can we, the consumers, do to drive such change? Back in May, we wrote a piece about the Rana Plaza collapse and how we, the consumers, can make a positive difference.
We said that consumers need to acknowledge that our current consumption habits DO have direct knock-on effects through the supply chain and, therefore, we need to think more carefully about what clothes we buy and how often we buy them.
We also said that the retailers DO play a influential role and, therefore, they should be encouraged to make rigorous checks on their manufacturers and suppliers, visiting factories on a regular basis to ensure proper health and safety regulations and fair labour standards are implemented.
Finally, we said that the UK government and international regulatory bodies NEED to start advocating strict regulations for manufacturers and heavy fines for those who do not comply with them. There should be checks made by International Labour Organisations and other NGO bodies to ensure that factory workers are not being exploited, have good working conditions and are getting a fair wage.
You may think that consumers don't hold the power to make a difference but we do.
You can watch Panorama - Dying For A Bargain documentary in full here.
Earlier this month, Ayesha Mustafa, the Founder and Director of Fashion ComPassion, wrote an article for the Sunday Magazine of Daily Times outlining her views on sustainable and socially responsible fashion. In her piece, Ayesha talked about how fashion is becoming a tool for positive change and how ethical brands are making an impact on the fashion industry. Sunday is the most widely read weekly magazine on fashion, art and lifestyle in Pakistan and we'd delighted that our take on sustainable fashion has been featured.
Today is International Workers’ Day, when the achievements of the international workers movement are celebrated worldwide. It’s a day where we promise to respect other people's labour and love our work. A day where we promote KNOW COST instead of LOW COST so that the tragedies of labour abuse and worker exploitation are a thing of the past.
Last week, the Rana Plaza complex, an eight-storey building housing garment factories, collapsed outside the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.
Last week, over 400 people died when Rana Plaza, an eight-storey building housing garment factories, collapsed outside the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. It was covered by nearly every major Western news body as “the worst accident in the history of the garment industry”.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. In 2005, the collapse of the Spectrum garment factory near Savar killed more than 60 workers while, in 2012, fires that broke out in two garment factories in Karachi and Lahore killed over 300 workers. More recently, 112 workers died in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions Factory in Ashulia last November; all because their building did not have any fire exits. These incidents are horrific, and tragically all could have been easily prevented.
Over 400 garment workers have been killed and many more are still missing.
Bangladesh has one of the largest garment industries in the world, providing cheap ready-made clothing for many Western retailers that benefit from its widespread low-cost labour. However, the industry has been widely criticised for the dangerous working conditions in its garment factories and the low pay and limited rights given to its labourers.
Bangladesh has one of the biggest cheap ready-made garment industries in the world.
Writing on the “Business Fights Poverty” blog, Ayesha Mustafa, founder and director of Fashion ComPassion, said “I just can’t stand the idea that these factory owners believe that they are doing a huge service by providing jobs to the workers and lifting them out of poverty...just because people are poor they should not be given jobs that can cost them their lives”.
Firefighters and army personnel working around the clock to free survivors trapped beneath the debris.
So what can we do to drive change in clothes industry? Here are our thoughts.
Firstly, as western consumers, we need to acknowledge that our consumption habits have direct knock-on effects through the global supply chain. We therefore need to become conscious consumers, thinking more carefully about the clothes that we buy.
We also feel that the retail industry is not doing enough to help protect the lives of their work force. Retailers should be encouraged to make rigorous checks on their manufacturers and suppliers, visiting factories on a regular basis to ensure proper health and safety regulations and fair labour standards are implemented. We feel that the retail industry can achieve a lot by supporting such strict measures.
Finally, the UK government and international regulatory bodies need to start advocating strict governing regulations for manufacturers and heavy fines for those who break them. There should also be checks made by International Labour Organizations and other NGO bodies to ensure that factory workers are not being exploited, have good working conditions and are getting a fair wage.
Call to Action - How can we change the clothing industry to prevent industrial tragedies like Rana Plaza from happening again?
We, as consumers, hold the power to make change happen. Choose wisely, buy from brands who are transparent and celebrate the makers.
What do you think? How can we change the clothing industry to prevent industrial tragedies like Rana Plaza from happening again?
Send us your thought and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or via our blog.
Last month heralded a significant milestone for ethical fashion as peers from the House of Lords held its second debate on the importance of ethics and sustainability in the UK fashion industry.
Baroness Young, a spearheading figure in both politics and ethical fashion, lead the Lords' second debate on ethics and sustainability in fashion. Photo via BBC.
Led by Baroness Young of Hornsey, crossbencher and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, the debate saw a number of politicians give informative and insightful speeches about the multifaceted nature of ethical fashion. Lord Patten, conservative peer, talked about his "admiration" for "the creativity of the British fashion industry" and pointed out that "ethical measures are appealing to customers", whilst Lib Dem Lord Razzall spoke about the need to raise the status of fashion in higher education institutions and professional qualifications.
Photo via Democratic Upper House
The hour long discussion also highlighted several ongoing concerns regarding the fashion industry itself, including the issue of environmental damage caused by textile production. The loss of the UK textile industry and the social and economic impact of this on local communities was also discussed, along with the use of forced labour and human rights.
House of Lords. Photo via Peace Hospice.
In her opening speech, Baroness Young warned of the consequences of certain clothes production techniques for the environment, claiming that consumers need to make the link between their desire for cheap clothing and the loss of livelihoods. Baroness Young went on to suggest that fashion businesses needed to “work collaboratively and internationally to effect sustainable change".
Baroness Young aims to show politicians that sustainable fashion needs to be taken seriously. Photo via Lords of the Blog.
“Fashion”, according to Baroness Young, “is about so much more than the clothes we wear. It may be an expression of our professional and personal identities, an expression of where and how we see ourselves in relation to our peer group, our cultures, our families and communities, and an expression of our creativity and our sense of fun”.
Nowadays, it seems that there is an app for pretty much everything. Cooking apps, shopping apps, gaming apps, news apps – you name it! The list is endless! It comes as no surprise, then, that there are several popular sustainable and ethical apps available to download to your smart phone. So, without further ado, here is Fashion ComPassion’s top 5 ethical and environmental apps which can help you live a more sustainable life.
1. "Social Impact" – For iPhone - Free
"Social Impact" uses your mobile device’s GPS feature to find nearby socially responsible enterprises!
"Social Impact" is an award winning app which uses your mobile device’s GPS feature to find local socially responsible enterprises – including restaurants, coffee shops, and craft stores. This ‘map app’ also includes useful information about the retailers’ products, their social impact and their location and opening times. Simple and easy to use, "Social Impact" aims to expand the market for socially-minded enterprises by making it easier for customers to find them. Currently available as a website and as a free iPhone app. Android version coming soon.
2. "Instead" – For iPhone - Free
"Instead" encourages consumers to substitute everyday purchases with micro-donations to charitable causes.
"Instead" is a app which encourages consumers to substitute everyday purchases, like buying a coffee or getting a takeaway, with micro-donations to charitable causes. "Instead" also keeps a log of every donation you make, showing you all the charities which have benefited from your contribution. With its simple and well-designed layout and a large choice of charities to choose from, this app reminds us that even the smallest donation can make a real difference. Available as a free iPhone app. Android version coming soon.
3. "Free2Work" – For iPhone / Android - Free
"Free2Work" provides an innovative and informative reference guide for consumers who wish to avoid brands and products which use forced and child labour.
"Free2Work" is a app which provides an innovative and informative reference guide for consumers who wish to avoid brands and products which use forced and child labour. The Free2Work organisation promotes transparency by rating and evaluating a brand or company on based on its efforts to address the issues of forced and child labour throughout their supply chain. Their app allows customers to scan a product’s barcode to see whether a company has proper effective polices in place to prevent such labour from happening. Useful and informative. Available as a free iPhone and Android app.
4. "The GoodGuide" – For iPhone / Android - Free
"The GoodGuide" informs consumers about the health, environmental and social impacts of products and brands they're buying.
"The GoodGuide" is a app which enables customers to make informed decisions by revealing the health, environmental and social impacts of products and brands they’re buying on a regular basis. The app retrieves health, environmental and social performance ratings for over 120,000 products including food, toys and detergents. The app also includes a barcode scanner, making it incredibly easy to retrieve information and product ratings whilst you shop. Available as a free iPhone and Android app.
5. iRecycle – For iPhone / Android - Free
"iRecycle" allows users to find their local, convenient recycling opportunities.
"iRecycle" is a app which allows users to find their local, convenient recycling opportunities. Using a colourful and easy to use interface, the app provides access to more than 1.5 million ways to recycle over 350 materials all at a touch of a button. Moreover, "iRecycle" provides vital information for each recycling spot, including a checklist of all other materials accepted. The app also provides its users with the latest in green news and ideas and various social media options. Available as a free iPhone and Android app.
Last month saw the launch of ‘Chime For Change’, Gucci’s newest global campaign for female empowerment. Co-founded and led by a trio of strong spokeswomen - Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini, singer Beyoncé Knowles and actress Salma Hayek Pinault, this initiative aims to raise awareness and funds for girls’ and women’s empowerment around the world. They are joined by an advisory board of subject matter experts, advocates and global leaders, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The 3 co-founders of Chime For Change movement - Frida Giannini, Beyoncé Knowles and Salma Hayek Pinault. (Photo via Gucci).
According to the campaign’s website, Chime For Change hopes ‘to convene, unite and strengthen voices speaking out for girls and women around the world and will focus on three key pillars: Education, Health and Justice’. In conjunction with its online crowd-sourcing partner, Catapult, the Chime For Change movement aims to encourage people from all walks of life to support girls’ and womens’ projects in a personalized, individual way. Catapult enables citizen philanthropy and is the first crowd-funding platform dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women, connecting members of the Chime For Change community directly to like-minded projects worldwide so they can focus on aiding the causes that matter most to them. So far, the Chime For Change movement represents over 50 organizations in 38 countries. The campaign comes at a pivotal moment for women and girls globally as the world’s attention is drawn to headlines of violence against women in all corners of the world, including India, Ireland, South Africa and the United States of America.
Salma Hayek Pinault launches the Chime For Change movement at the TED2013 in February. (Photo via Just Jared).
The initiative was launched by Hayek Pinault at the TEDxWomen luncheon in Feb, presenting a short film telling the story of Nigerian democracy activist Hasfat Abiola. The first of ten further Chime for Change short films was also screened at the launch. Co-founder and Gucci creative director Frida Giannini said “We have reached a significant moment in the history of girls’ and women’s empowerment and now is the time for change. I think it is essential for girls and women to see and celebrate what is possible. I hope that through Chime we can help the voices calling for change to become so loud that they cannot be ignored.”
Chime For Change Campaign Poster. (Photo via Gucci).
This is not the first time Gucci has been engaged in women’s issues. The company has a strong relationship with the children’s charity UNICEF, which has included support for girls’ education, and has founded two women’s film awards; the Gucci Award for Women in Cinema with the Venice Film Festival and the Spotlighting women Documentary Award with the Tribeca Film Institute. Moreover, Gucci actively supports the Kering Foundation for Women’s Dignity and Rights.
If you would like to know more about the Chime For Change movement and how you can involved, check out the Chime For Change website!