It’s no secret that the fashion industry is in need of some serious change. Fashion trends are constantly updating, and with recent advances in technology, there is an increasingly high demand for “fast fashion”. With every Instagram photo, magazine spread and fashion show, we are constantly being told that we need to buy the latest fashion “must have”. Luxury items are immediately copied by high street shops and made available for a fraction of the price, a mere number of weeks after they first appear on the runway. Every day new pieces of clothing appear on your favourite fashion sites, available at the touch of a button. But no matter how cheap your shopping basket may be, these clothes come at a much greater price.
Four years ago, on April 24th, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed. This tragedy caused the deaths of 1,133 workers and resulted in the injury of a further 2,500 people. The factory provided textiles for many recognisable Western brands – Primark, Mango and Benetton, to name a few. The day before the catastrophe occurred, the commercial building was evacuated due to cracks appearing in its walls. Despite the obvious danger, the factory workers were threatened that, if they did not return to work the following day, they would lose out on a month’s salary (of less than €35). So, they returned to work and lost their lives.
News of the tragedy shocked the fashion industry, and the rest of the world. Changes have since been made, but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Over the past four years, 41 garment factories have been shut down in Bangladesh alone due to unsafe working conditions. However, textile workers still receive shockingly low wages and are forced to work in overcrowded and dangerous environments. Not only are these labourers being exploited, but so too is the environment. It takes 2,720 litres of water to produce a single t-shirt – the same amount of water that a person drinks over a three-year period. The amount of waste produced by the industry is detrimental to the planet. The materials of high street brands like Primark are poorly sourced which is why it’s important to think more sustainable with your fashion. Whether it’s the bamboo underwear women can buy or men purchasing their jeans from a more eco-friendly small business, you need to think about these things. On top of the poorly sourced materials, every individual item of clothing delivered to a store is wrapped in plastic packaging. Approximately two million tonnes of clothing are thrown away in the UK every year. People have a genuine fear of being spotted wearing the same outfit twice. It is this mentality that fuels our desire for new and cheap clothes, and the need for “fast fashion”. The only way that the industry can change is if we all make a conscious effort to change too. If you have any old tshirts then you can recycle them and use them to make a tshirt blanket – sustainable and comfortable! A brilliant idea to make a quality quilt that you can enjoy.
That’s where the Fashion Revolution comes in.
Fashion Revolution is a movement designed to make you think about the clothes you are wearing: where they were made and who made them. The non-profit organisation was set up by two ethical designers, Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, who want to ensure that nothing like the Rana Plaza disaster will ever happen again. The movement encourages people to ask brands #whomademyclothes, to improve transparency in the fashion industry and bring about positive change.
There are a number of ways that you can get involved this Fashion Revolution Week, which will run across 90 different countries, from April 24th to 30th. The first is to wear your t-shirt inside out, by taking a picture of your clothes label and post it on Instagram, tagging the brand and asking them #whomademyclothes. The second is to get educated: check out The True Cost on Netflix, a documentary which shares the truth about the impact of fashion on people and the environment. The third is to attend an event.
Fashion Revolution Ireland are hosting events throughout the week, in conjunction with Nu, founded by former Trinity studnets. Events include film screenings, upcycle workshops and a walking tour of Dublin’s vintage shops. Grab your tickets via the Fashion Revolution Ireland Facebook page.
To make a real change, don’t just think about sustainable fashion for one week. With more and more brands designing ethical clothing, it is possible to make a positive change to your own wardrobe without breaking the bank. The clothes from this photoshoot prove that. Fresh Cuts is a Dublin based lifestyle brand that produces affordable and ethical clothing, while Nu provides an online platform for clothes-swapping. Irish luxury designers are also making waves in sustainable fashion. Alanagh Clegg, a recent graduate from the National College of Art and Design, founded Four Threads, and designs collections using ethically sourced, hand-woven fabrics from India. KEEM is yet another Irish brand that focuses on responsible fashion. Using natural fibres, certified organic cotton and faux fur, KEEM produces beautiful and sustainable clothing.
Fashion is more than just a pretty face. It can be smart, it can be ethical and it can be revolutionary.