This week is Fashion Revolution Week. Consumers all over the world are asking their favorite brands “who made my clothes”. If you are like me (and if you are reading this post, chances are you can relate) you know who made your clothes because you made at least a percentage of them.
“On 24 April 2013, 1,134 people were killed
and over 2,500 were injured when the
Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka,
Bangladesh. We believe that’s too many
people to lose on one day.”
That complex housed 5 garment factories. This was the start of Fashion Revolution.
I firmly believe that makers should earn a livable wage. I firmly believe that every work environment should be happy and healthy. I firmly believe that every single person deserves a happy life, filled with opportunity, a safe home and food to eat.
I “discovered” fashion when I was going into my sophomore year of high school. I started caring about the clothes I wore and how I looked to people. Before that, I would borrow my sisters clothing and thought Abercrombie was the only place to shop. And then I learned that I didn’t have to wear what the other kids were wearing. I could look however I wanted and feel comfortable in my skin. I saw clothes I wanted but couldn’t fit into them because of my small size. As soon as I fell in love with clothing, I hated it because my body wouldn’t fit. That’s when I discovered sewing and an entire world opened up to me. I learned just how difficult it was to make a garment- the time and patience it took to create a look- and how satisfying it was to have something fit so perfectly it makes your confidence soar. This world became a happy place for me.
I studied Fashion at Montclair State University, where every other girl in the program wanted to be a buyer. I felt very out of place because all I wanted to do was make. I then took on a double major in costume design because that was the only way I would learn more about construction. It was about that time I started to think about where my clothing was coming from. I didn’t have the skill or time to make all my clothing so I usually shopped at Target or Forever 21. Fast fashion became a huge learning point in school and my thinking changed drastically. I was learning about the conditions sweat shop workers were not only working in but how they were living. How multi billion dollar clothing companies wanted top dollar for their product but weren’t willing to pay their makers a decent wage. I learned that the designers I loved would rather ship production overseas and not think about who is making it just to add more money to their pockets.
I hated shopping. I hated walking into the mall and seeing the rows of clothing that was being put on super clearance to make way for next seasons looks. I started thinking how much a shirt cost to make if it was being sold for $5.
I started doing research on clothing companies that cared about how their product was being produced. Mata Traders came up in my search and I fell in love. My first job out of college was working for a Fair Trade company Mayamam Weavers, and I was fortunate enough to travel to Guatemala to meet the makers. Around the time TOMS came out, more companies were emerging with the mindset of “ethical fashion” and Krochet Kids appeared with a great campaign to know your knitter. There are so many great brands and independent creators producing apparel and accessories with their makers in mind (& the environment!) and even the larger companies are taking notice. Modcloth is even carrying Mata now!
April 24th is Fashion Revolution Day. I urge you to go to their site and learn more about where your clothes are coming from. Look at the tag, ask questions. I admit I still shop fast fashion, and more often receive gifts from one of my favorite labels, American Rag (ironically made elsewhere). I still buy my undergarments, although I am planning to start making them- and shoes I do not plan on making anytime soon. I’m not perfect, and understand that this may sound hypocritical but I do believe my impact on the fashion world has gone down dramatically by making and refashioning. I now only purchase 3-5 tops, 2-3 bottoms, and roughly 3 pairs of shoes per year in brand new items. Most of the time, when I go shopping, it’s to buy fabric or go to the thrift store. It’s only been a few years since I started this journey so I’m still taking my baby steps. You can take a look at all my refashions here.
I used to believe I didn’t have a voice. I was one person in the world and no one could hear me. But I have you, dear readers. And if I can inspire just one of you to question where your clothing came from and think about a more ethical form of consumption, my voice has been heard. I urge you to go to fashionrevolution.org and read about the movement that’s happening. And if you have a passion for the movement, share it with your followers and friends.