How You Can Push Brands to Answer One Simple Question: ‘Who Made My Clothes?’
The jeans I’m wearing were made in Bangladesh, my cotton shirt was made in Haiti, and my sweater was made in China. But it’s one thing to know the country where an item of clothing was made and another to know whether it was manufactured by adults or children slaving away in horrific sweatshop conditions. That might change if enough consumers begin asking fashion labels one simple question: “Who made my clothes?”
That’s the goal of the second annual Fashion Revolution Day, an effort that takes place every year on April 24. The organizers hope to boost awareness of the unethical, perilous working conditions and grim health consequences that sweatshop workers endure. To that end, the campaign is asking people to snap a selfie with a clothing label, post it to social media, and tag the brand that made the item with the hashtag #whomademyclothes.
“The amazing thing is that as consumers, we have a lot of power to create change. By participating in this global movement and asking the brands we wear who made my clothes, we show brands that we won’t accept the current reality,” wrote Maxine Bédat, the cofounder of online retailer Zady, in an email. Her two-year-old company, which only sells sustainable, ethically sourced products, is serving as one of the U.S. chairs of Fashion Revolution Day.
Indeed, the circumstances under which much of our clothing is produced can have fatal consequences for workers. Fashion Revolution Day takes place on April 24 to commemorate the anniversary of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. The accident killed more than 1,100 people and injured more than 2,500 others. In the aftermath, retailers including Walmart, Gap, and Sears created the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. However, enforcement of the alliance’s regulations seems wanting.
The lack of regulation in factories isn’t just a problem in Bangladesh. According to Fashion Revolution Day, 60 percent of brands are unaware of the circumstances under which their garments are sewn. “One in every six people in the whole world works in some part of the fashion industry, but they are hidden in the shadows, and in the rush for fast fashion companies to get the dirt cheapest prices, their basic rights are being ignored,” wrote Bédat.
According to the initiative, 90 percent of brands don’t know where the raw materials used to make the clothing are coming from. “The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world,” wrote Bédat. According to the World Bank, the dyeing process used by the textile industry generates almost 20 percent of the planet’s industrial water pollution.
Brands “are desperate to have us as their customers and they will make the effort to change when they see that we care,” wrote Bédat. To spark change beyond social media, the folks at Fashion Revolution Day also hope consumers will support companies that disclose how their clothes were produced and choose quality over quantity—after all, nobody needs another pair of sweatshop-produced $9 jeans that will be threadbare after a couple of washes.