Fashion Revolution Week 2021
Today is the start of Fashion Revolution Week 2021 and I want to ask you a question. Who made your clothes?
My name is Julia Roebuck and I run Upcycle Fashion, a circular clothing practice promoting the repairing, sharing, swapping and upcycling of clothing. I grew up in Holmfirth and went to Holmfirth High School and Greenhead College before moving to London to study a foundation diploma in Art & Design, BA Textile Design and MA Fashion and the Environment at University of the Arts, London. I established Upcycle Fashion in 2010 and over the last 11 years I have developed and delivered community projects, school workshops, talks and events focused on sustainable fashion and creative, collective ways to reduce textile waste, keeping clothing in active use for as long as possible. I have lived and worked in London and Australia and I am now based in Kirklees.
My Fashion Revolution window at Fair Trader encourages people to think about the processes and people involved in the making of their clothing. If you can quickly answer the question "Who made my clothes" with a lot of information - perhaps you have researched the garments and the company before deciding to make a purchase, or perhaps you make your own clothing? If so, I like this very much, elbow bumps all round. However, many, many people cannot answer this question. We have a collective knowledge gap that sits within our brains/society along with the answers to other questions such as "name the ingredients in your shampoo" or "repair your own mobile phone". Where would we begin?! Hello blank expression, you are not alone. I do not write to make you feel bad. I confess I have no idea what cetrimonium methosulfate is and I struggle to even change a sim card. I write to inspire you to ask some simple questions before you buy your next item of clothing and, if you're not sure, perhaps don't buy it?
Firstly - if you don't know who made your clothes, where the fabric came from, or if any hazardous chemicals were used in the dye, it's not because you are a Bad Person. It's because the fashion brands you buy from aren't telling you. For many fashion retailers, this information is hidden within a complex global supply chain and extremely difficult to find out. For others, they know exactly what is going on, but it's bad. It's so bad, they don't want us to find out (because no-one actively WANTS their clothes to cause death and destruction) so they intentionally keep the bad details hidden and pay large amounts of money for slick and sexy advertising campaigns that distract us along with pricing that makes us feel like we're getting a good bargain (and we ALL love a bargain) and that combination is exciting, hard to refuse and...oh, what were those questions I was meant to ask?
If you do know the answers to the questions, it's because the fashion brands you buy from ARE telling you. That means they are proud to share with you information about the makers, processes and materials behind their products and collections and this is as it should be. These brands are proud of what they make, and who makes them. Being transparent about who and what is involved in the supply chain gives those people and processes the dignity and respect they deserve. It also empowers YOU as a citizen to make informed choices about which companies to support and why. The fashion and textiles industry isn't something that only happens to other people, in other places. It is happening right now. Here. And you are an essential part of that industry. Each time you make a purchase you are voting YES for the actions and practices of that company. The "consumer" (that's you) is at the heart of every decision a company makes. Don't undervalue yourself in this supply chain. Your voice can change everything.
TRY THE 4 x YES TEST
Next time you are shopping for a garment or textile product you want to answer YES to these 4 questions:
Am I going to wear it AT LEAST 30 times? (#30wears)
Is the company I am buying it from proud to tell me about their makers and materials? (You want to be able to find out a lot of information quickly about this on their website – ideally home page.)
Will it go well with other pieces in my wardrobe to make new outfits I will love to wear? (Maximum style value.)
Is it good enough quality to sell on / rent out if I decide I no longer want it? (Textiles should never go in the bin.)
Get involved in Fashion Revolution on line this year by choosing an item of clothing you love and ask the brand directly (on social media or email), "Who made my clothes?"
Fashion Revolution was established following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013. It was the worst industrial disaster the fashion and textile industry has seen and enough is enough. Brand actions and governance isn't changing fast enough, it's time for us all to show that we demand better conditions for workers and for all areas of the industry to work for the benefit of our environment, not its destruction.
Julia Roebuck, 19 April 2021