Six years ago today, the bodies of 1,138 garment factory workers were found amongst the rubble of what was once a commercial complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh known as The Rana Plaza Collapse. The tragedy, enabled by political corruption and fueled by corporate greed, is the deadliest garment factory collapse in history. In addition to the death toll, there was more than 2,500 workers injured, most of who were women and children.
(image by http://www.made.uk.com/blog/rana-plaza-a-year-on/)
For the first time ever, this tragedy-shed light into a very real global problem - that fashion can be deadly. In response to the disaster and the international conversation around the social impact, two designers from the UK, Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, founded Fashion Revolution.
Fashion Revolution is a non-profit organization committed to enacting genuine change and encouraging transparency in the fashion industry. The organization has designated the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh as Fashion Revolution Week where millions of people around the world call on brands to answer the question, “Who Made My Clothes,” by using the #whomademyclothes via social media.
There has been progress made, but the same issues that caused the plaza collapse five years still exist today. Last year alone, there were 426 garment workers die in a total of 321 workplace incidents. We can’t stop our work until people stop dying in factories, and on an even more basic level, start being treated fairly. Consumers may be more critical and brands more conscious, but a genuine long-term change means continual engagement in our efforts and in long-term systemic change.
Want to know more ways to get involved? From altering your buying habits to writing your policymaker, click the link below for a more comprehensive list of ways to support this organization and the movement towards a more transparent future in fashion.
The Super Bowl isn’t just a big day for sports fanatics. It’s a big day for the retail industry in general. Why? According to the National Retail Federation, whether it’s food for a party you’re attending or hosting, decorations for your place of celebration or the purchase of a new team t-shirt for good luck - consumers spent $15.3 billion dollars in preparation for yesterday's events alone.
We also can’t forget that the National Football League prints and prepares shirts, hats and other team memorabilia for both sides. That’s right. There are millions of dollars in merchandise that reads, “Patriots 2018 Super Bowl Champs” being shipped overseas as you read this.
As in any other major sporting event, there are eager fans that want to get their hands on championship merchandise as quickly as possible. In turn, there are also eager retailers ready to capitalize on said fans. Thus, merchandise is prepared for either team’s outcome in order to ensure that no time is wasted developing winning apparel upon the completion of the event.
The league stopped recalling and destroying licensed merchandise from the losing Super Bowl team in 1996. Instead, they now work with a non-profit to send the goods to parts of developing countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Nicaragua, Armenia and El Salvador. The unwanted shirts go to places that need them and the partner non-profit gets a hefty giving in kind donation to help them meet their fundraising efforts. Seems like a pretty good situation, right? Not always. Let me provide some context for Western clothes that end up in other parts of the world.
In Kenya, locals refer to these items as, “clothes of dead white people.” In Mozambique, they are often called, “clothing of calamity.” Here’s why:
They Diminish Local Business
It’s actually a common misconception that non-profits and aid organizations distribute second-hand clothing freely in the developing world. Once these discarded clothes hit East African shores, they are often sold to local vendors or “hawkers” so they can also re-sell them at extremely low prices in their marketplace. An article by the HuffPost stated that, “A pair of used jeans can be as little as $1.50 in the Gikomba Market, East Africa’s biggest secondhand clothing market in Nairobi, Kenya.”
This is about 5-6% of a traditional local piece of apparel. Local makers and Artisans are feeling the blow of these low prices and are forced to slash pricing in order to stay competitive in the market.
They Fill up Local Landfills
Like any good retailer, the in-country vendors inevitably must update their merchandise in order to attract new customers. When the textiles have been picked over or are finally waning in sales, guess where they go to finally retire? You guessed it - the local landfill. They don’t get to ship them off to another country like the U.S. does.
(A vendor sells secondhand clothes at a stall in the busy Gikomba market)
According to an article by Balance, more than 15 million tons of textile trash are generated each year by Americans. That’s roughly 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles per person, per year. That is an astounding number when you think about what ends up getting shipped overseas! It’s part of the reason why the EAC decided to put a ban on used clothes imports from the U.S. You can read the full article here. Not to mention, a full landfill impairs public health, pollutes the environment and threatens to drown some of the world’s poorest countries in toxicity.
This is a product of the waste crisis that we’re experiencing because of the throw-away culture we’ve embodied. With the ever enticing low cost of fast fashion, manufacturers are producing more, consumers are buying more, and we're throwing away more than ever before.
This blog isn’t intended to dog on the NFL or make the claim that second-hand clothing in general is all bad for the developing world. I just thought this was a timely opportunity to express to our followers yet again how deep and multifaceted the fast fashion industry really is. To hopefully bring some awareness to the level of waste we're all contributing to. And how ethical fashion isn’t just about purchasing power, but consideration for where and how to discard your unwanted garments too.
Let me be honest, I never really formally followed runway fashion until recently. That’s because I never felt like I was their target audience. I didn’t work in the industry in any capacity and I wasn’t a consumer who bought designer labels, so I didn’t feel the need or interest to pay attention. However, after the last few years of working in the fair trade fashion industry, I realized that fashion week was more than just identifying the latest trends and attending glamorous after-parties. It’s the economics behind runway fashion that interests me as a consumer and now as a fair trade business owner.
Runway fashion is where trends are born and then carried out into the world for small and mass-market retailers alike in order to create demand. This demand can also instigate the very thing that Trove is working to re-write, fast fashion. Fast fashion being defined as clothing that is mass-produced in an expedited manner from runway to retail to capitalize on the latest trends in order to get them to market the quickest. Because of the fast nature of the production, the people who make it and the planet often pay for that cost.
So while your shirt may only cost you $10.80, there is a much higher price being paid on the other side of the supply chain. This is really why I care about fashion week. I want to produce clothing that is on trend, responsibly made and comparatively priced to those mass retailers who are more concerned with profit than the people they are exploiting.
(Image from: The Made in America movement)
That said, as New York Fashion Week came to an end yesterday, I wanted to give you a recap of some of my favorite shows and trends. These themes will no doubt be helpful as I start to develop my Spring and Summer 18 lines for Trove. Lines that are responsibly made and people are paid a fair wage.
Marc Jacobs: Tropical
Steering from his normal chic city vibe, his Spring 18 line was full of vibrant colors and florals galore. The collection was wildly exaggerated with big pattern plays and proportions. Combine that with the drape-y, oversized ensembles and I am stoked about the moo-moos that are no doubt going to ensue next year!
(image credit: Rex Shutterstock)
Diane Von Furstenberg: Retro
(Image credit: DVF )
From bold stripes to silky silhouettes, I loved her nod towards an era that I always felt I was meant for – the 70’s! I also liked that when I looked at her pieces I could picture myself finding them at an estate sale (which is a good thing). Her incorporation of fringe in statement making places has me thinking of some fun things for the future!
(Image credit: DVF )
Alice + Olivia: Eclectic Feminine
(Image credit: Alice & Olivia )
This line really resonated with me because I felt like it embodied a lot the things I like to incorporate into my own personal style: bold colors, femininity and just embracing the transformative nature of fashion. That on any given day, season or phase I can choose the woman I want to be. I also loved seeing that the one-shoulder and ruffles trend, particularly combined, are going to have some staying power!
(Image credit: Alice & Olivia )