Fashion Revolution Day is more than just a memorial to the tragedy of Rana Plaza. It is also a reminder of the need for a change in how clothes are made as well as in how consumers view clothes. On April 24 the world comes together to honor those who were lost at Rana Plaza and many other tragedies in the industry over the years. But it is more than just a day. It is also a time to get inspired by the collective energy and to push harder until the system of money, fashion, and power is changed.
Clothes don't just appear on store shelves ready for us to purchase them. They go through a long journey from cotton farmers, to weavers and dyers, to sewers. Each phase might even take place in a different country extending the carbon footprint of a garment as well as the amount of hands it gets passed through. There are about 75 million people involved in the fashion industry. The majority live in poverty.
According to Fashion Revolution, just six of the world's twenty richest people are owners of companies that sell a huge amount of clothing. There is a big difference from these six individuals to the 75 million people who are involved in the industry! A lot of these workers don't even earn a living wage.
As consumers, we have the choice between cheap clothing and paying a little more. Consider, for example, who pays for the t-shirt you got for free during a "buy one, get one free" deal. There were people who farmed that cotton, wove it into thread, dyed the thread, and sewed it into that "free" shirt. Multiple people paid for it by working long, hard hours for less than a living wage. What about those $5 shirts that you might buy because they're so cheap? Is it possible for all of the people who touched that garment at every stage of production to have earned enough to live on?
If you knew the person who made your clothes was getting paid a living wage, would you pay a little extra?
Let's break this down a little more. The following two charts show the amount of money that real-life garment workers earned and what they had to spend to live. The first is a women in Bangladesh who works 10 hours in a garment factory with a 1 hour lunch break. The second chart shows the expenses of a woman from Cambodia who works 9 hours and has a 1 hour lunch break. They each have a young son in their care.
When you see these comparisons and start to think more about how the person who made your clothes lives, does it inspire you to make a change in your shopping habits? We hope so. We hope this encourages you to stop and take a minute to consider the journey a garment has gone through before you purchase it.
Right now, the few people making an enormous amount of money from fast fashion have the power. But let's change that. As a consumer, YOU have the power to say that you want the people who make your clothes to have a good life. YOU have the power to tell a brand that you won't buy their clothes until they change how garment workers are treated and how they are paid.
You can use your purchasing power to create change. Take some time to research the brands you like. Are they transparent with where their products come from and how their workers are treated? If it's unclear, ask them. Use social media to put pressure on brands to answer these questions. During your research you may come across great brands who make it clear where they stand. Support these brands by buying from them and sharing about them. A little extra effort can go a very long way, especially when the outcome means a worker is paid fairly for their work.