The question of why we gravitate towards one garment over another largely boils down to identity. The ways in which we choose to project ourselves to the rest of the world stands vital in our day to day lives, however, when we take a step back to understand where our clothes came from, are we really projecting the same image? The #WhoMadeMyClothes? campaign was sparked by Carry Somers, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, in response to what can only be described as the most fatal garment factory collapse to date. The 1,138 employees who lost their lives at the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013 marked not only a tragedy but a wake-up call for the necessary change for companies to disclose and publish crucial information about their themselves. This incident had to stand for something.
Fast forward six years to present day, have we made any progress?
Whilst advancements are slow, a degree of consistency in terms of progression is clear. According to The Guardian’s Tamsin Blanchard, 3.25 million individuals posted #WhoMadeMyClothes? on social media platforms during Fashion Revolution Week in 2018. ‘We are now the world’s largest fashion activism movement.’ Carry Somers told us. ‘Thousands of fashion brands have shared details about the facilities and people who make their clothes and thousands of garment workers, artisans, farmers and producers have told their stories using the hashtag #IMadeYourClothes.’ Last month the third edition of the FTI (Fashion Transparency Index) stated that the participating companies received an average of 35% Transparency – a 22.5% increase from that seen in 2016. Whilst these figures are still relatively low, Reebok, Adidas and Patagonia all scored a Transparency of 64%, a statistic raising the bar for its competitors.
Despite an increase of published data regarding the social and environmental efforts brands are committing to, it may be said that these statistics only stand as the tip of the iceberg. ‘There is still much crucial information about the practices of the fashion industry that remains concealed, particularly when it comes to brands’ tangible impact on the lives of workers in the supply chain and on the environment’ explained Carry. ‘Just over one third of brands support women’s empowerment projects for garment workers. However, only 3 brands publish data on the prevalence of gender-based violations in their supplier facilities.’ Similarly, 63% of brands publish policies on equal pay yet almost half of them fail to produce information on their annual gender pay gap within their company. It seems as though many of these ‘participating’ companies are providing information to satisfy the needs of the public but are to some degree censoring the quality of the information presented.
Clearly we are taking steps in the right direction, however, the size of these steps right now is questionable. Thanks to organisations such as Fashion Revolution, we are able to envision a future where we can access information on the brands we consume and no longer have to question #WhoMadeMyClothes?. In an industry fabricated through what associate co-founder Orsola de Castro describes as secret, elitist, and “behind closed doors”, it’s time for us, the consumers, the public, to question the clothing we wear today, in order for a better tomorrow.
Words by Luca Buddenhagen
For more information, see Fashion Revolution