By Natalie Camrud '17 & Diva Gattani '17
April 24 marked three years since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh that killed 1,134 garment workers and injured 2,500 others. The building was not constructed for factory use and was structurally unsound, with large cracks visible in the days leading up to the collapse. The building housed factories that supplied clothes to brands like Benetton and Walmart. It uncovered a darker side of the fashion industry, one that places profits over people’s lives.
One positive thing that came out of this tragedy was the creation of Fashion Revolution, a group that believes that “fashion can be made in a safe, clean, and beautiful way. Where creativity, quality, environment, and people are valued equally ” (fashionrevolution.org). Since then, they have created Fashion Revolution Week, from April 18-24, where they ask people to look at their labels and to ask companies #whomademyclothes? The point of the campaign is to highlight the need for better wages and working conditions for garment workers, and it puts pressure on the fashion industry, which has done little to improve in the last three years. Most brands do not even know where their clothes come from: a report found that only half of the 219 biggest brands knew in which factories their products were made and did not know the conditions in these factories, usually because they were outsourced to subcontractors so that the companies were not connected to the factories to protect themselves from any liability (fashionrevolution.org). If these companies do not even know where their garments were made or who made them, they simply cannot ensure fair wages, human rights and proper environmental practices.
Fashion Revolution believes that transparency is the way to solve many of the fashion industry’s problems. These brands need to be informed about the conditions of the factories producing their products, and then they need to communicate this openly to the consumers. Some suggestions from Fashion Revolution’s website are to have products with QR codes so the consumer can see where the item came from, mapping out a transparent supply chain, and to publicly publish all the brand’s suppliers. By being transparent, companies can be held accountable for their treatment of workers and consumers can be better informed about the origins of their clothes. Nobody wants to be perpetuating this system of humans rights violations and horrific working conditions, but the lack of transparency in the fashion industry makes it very difficult to discover the origins of your clothing. However, just because Fashion Revolution week has passed, it does not mean you cannot still ask “who made my clothes”? Fashionrevolution.org has more information and resources if you are interested in getting involved with this campaign or want to find out more about why we need a fashion revolution and what you can do to help.