Last week marked the four year anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster where a building housing 5 garment factories collapsed in Bangladesh. Over 1,000 people lost their lives with a further 2,500 people injured. In response to the disaster a collective of designers and influencers came together to launch Fashion Revolution. Now in its fourth year, Fashion Revolution week raises awareness of the human and environmental impact of the fashion industry and how we as consumers can effect change.
This year Fashion Revolution Week ran from 24th to 30th April with volunteers from all over the world hosting events and workshops to empower consumers to make positive fashion choices. I went along to The Old Truman Brewery to hear Fashion Journalist Bel Jacobs and Stylist and Creative Director Alice Wilby share advice on curating your own sustainable wardrobe. Here are some of their top tips:
1 // The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter on the planet. We buy 400% more today than we did 20 years ago. Our consumption has reached peak level so it’s perhaps no surprise that the number one tip is to stop purchasing. Seriously. It’s time to reconnect with your wardrobe and reacquaint yourself with all the items you’ve been keeping for ‘good’ or that you’ve not worn in years. Imagine you’re curating an exhibition of style in your own home – what pieces deserve to be there? What do you want to get rid of? If you decide to get rid of items you no longer wear don’t throw them in the bin. You can donate them to charity or why not get some friends over and make a night of it. Serve some snacks, put the drinks on ice and encourage everyone to bring up to 3 items of clothing they no longer wear. Then have a style swap. Everyone gets the chance to take home something new and it won’t cost you a penny.
2 // If you love it look after it. Learn how to take care of your clothes and they will last a lifetime. Delicate fabrics don’t respond well to powerful detergents and, to be honest, they don’t need them. Designer Justine Leconte has some great videos on her YouTube Channel – her video on Fast Fashion is one of my favourites. Ecozone has some great, eco-friendly alternatives to chemical detergents that really work from soap nuts to eco balls (I use these.) If you don’t want the hassle of ordering online look out for Ecover in your local supermarket though bear in mind it is a pricier option in the long run. Wash at 30º where you can and hand wash as necessary.
3 // Keep your eyes open for style inspiration. If you feel a bit stuck in a rut take to the internet – Instagram and Pinterest can be great sources of inspiration and YouTube is the place to be if you’re looking for tutorials on customisation. Creating pin boards and Instagram collections will identify colours and styles you are drawn to and can be a good starting point when it comes to navigating your style.
4 // If you want to add to your wardrobe seek out sustainable brands and ask them about their practices. A sustainable brand should be able to answer questions about things like fair employment practices and the environmental impact of producing their products. These brands can be a bit pricier. However if you’re serious about investing in your wardrobe you may feel the price is worth it because you know the people who made your garment are paid fairly, for example, or that the company’s carbon footprint is low because the fabric is sourced and sewn locally.
5 // Head to your local charity shop. You may need to do a bit of digging but you’re sure to find something unique that’ll make you stand out from the crowd.
6 // Pick your issues. When you fall down the sustainability rabbit hole it can quickly seem overwhelming. Don’t feel you need to be perfect from the off. The worst thing you can do is fling open your wardrobe in despair and throw everything you’ve ever bought from Primark in the bin. Keep in mind that many little steps taken together add up to make a big difference.
7 // Everyone’s relationship with their clothes is unique to them (corny but true!) You may decide that where the fabric comes from is important to you or perhaps you want to know who stitched the jeans that make you feel most confident. Once you’ve established what’s important to you politicise yourself. Contact the brands that are hanging in your wardrobe and ask them the questions you want answers to. Know your power as a consumer – every time you make a purchase you are voting with your money. Be brave and know that your actions can make a positive difference.
Even though Fashion Revolution Week has come to an end we can still answer its call to action. I challenge you to take this first step toward becoming a more conscious consumer. All you need to do is take a selfie with one of your favourite items of clothing. The idea is to turn the item inside out and wear it with the label facing forward. Then tag the brand telling them why the item is special to you and that you’d like to thank the person who made it. Use the hashtags #whomademyclothes and #fashionrevolution to join the thousands of people exercising their power as consumers. Similarly you can search the hashtag #imadeyourclothes to see which brands have already responded.
If you’re thinking about taking your first steps toward sustainable fashion I hope you find these tips useful. If it’s something you’ve practised for a while please do share any advice you have in the comments below. We’re in this together.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,