On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. In the accident, 1 138 people died and a further 2 500 people were injured. This makes it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. Within Rana Plaza, there were five garment factories who were all manufacturing clothing for large global brands.
Photo Cred: rijans Flickr CC
While it seems impossible, and wrong, to take something positive out of a tragedy of such a magnitude, the disaster brought global awareness to the dark underbelly of the fashion world. It was out the rubble of the Rana Plaza that the Fashion Revolution Movement was born.
Fashion Revolution was founded on the premise that both people and the environment suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed, and that needs to change. Their mission is to ‘unite people and organisations to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed, so that our clothing is made in a safe, clean and fair way.’ Through teams in almost 100 countries, they are leveraging the power of when individual consumers move together as a collective to bring about change. This change needs to happen on three levels: The Model, Material, and Mindset.
Despite rising costs, driven by rising labour, raw material and energy price, the price we pay for clothing is cheaper than ever before. The result is a broken model that has disastrous effects on the environment and those who work in the factories producing these clothes.
The core materials used to produce clothing are people and planet. Human rights abuses and environmental degradation is the norm. We are seeing more frequent and deadlier factory disasters, and, according to The Carbon Trust, clothing accounts for 3% of global C02 emissions. This is unsurprising considering that the US alone throws away approximately 14 million tonnes, or over 36kg per person, of garments every year.
While we put a large portion of the blame on the companies producing these garments, there needs to be a shift in the mindset of those consuming them too. Without demand, there would not be supply. As a society, we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did 20 years ago. We need to move away from a throwaway consumer culture that throws out, and buys, a whole wardrobe per season.
Photocred: Claudio Montesano Castillas
Fashion Revolution believes that the first step toward this three-tiered change is through transparency, traceability and openness. Transparency allows understanding of current structures, and encourages solutions to the problems. They have leveraged off their global community, and are holding global brands accountable through the ‘Who Made My Clothes’ campaign.
We are proud to have been involved with Fashion Revolution for a number of years. Sealand founders, Jasper and Mike, are members of the South African team. Last week, we signed the Fashion Revolution Manifesto (see below) and encourage you to do the same by clicking on the link below the manifesto.
Click here to sign the Fashion Revolution Manifesto