fashion revolution: why transparency matters


a global movement for positive change

as a shy, soft-spoken gal, i've always relied on fashion to tell the story of who i am sans words. fashion is an evocative, tactile language that i employ daily. i respect the time, energy + talent it takes to construct a garment because there are a number of workers, including farmers, spinners, dyers + sewers, who will come in contact with each item of clothing before it reaches our hands. i've sewn my own clothes since the age of 14, so i understand the work that goes into crafting each item of clothing. 

The low prices [consumers] now expect to pay for clothing are built around the cost of production in other countries.

author elizabeth cline of overdressed shares, "clothing, even when produced in a factory, is really a handmade good broken down into assembly-line steps." in an interview with michael depalma, a factory manager in new york's garment center, we are reminded that fashion is a labor-intensive industry, not a technology-intensive industry, because you need someone to sit at a sewing machine. "the low prices [consumers] now expect to pay for clothing are built around the cost of production in other {low-wage} countries." today, 97% of apparel manufacturing is offshored to low-wage countries.

each week i focus my attention on brands + boutiques that value, respect + protect workers and our environment: eco-friendly + ethical brands honor the many hands, the myriad workers, that touch the garments + shoes we wear. because, as molly acord of fair + simple boutique reminds us, "behind every seam is a person." and the people who make our clothes + shoes are people with dreams + aspirations just like you and me. 

here's why transparency matters in the world of fashion + how you can get involved. 

from our friends at fashion revolution:

on 24 april 2013, the rana plaza building in bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history.

that’s when fashion revolution was born.

there were five garment factories in rana plaza all manufacturing clothing for big global brands. the victims were mostly young women.

since then, people from all over the world have come together to use the power of fashion to change the world.

our clothes have gone on a long journey before they hit store shelves, passing through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and others. approximately 75 million people work to make our clothes. 80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35.

however, the majority of the people who makes clothes for the global market live in poverty, unable to afford life’s basic necessities. many are subject to exploitation; verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe and dirty conditions, with very little pay.

Every time we buy something that costs less than we think it should, we are implicit in the impacts of that transaction.

this needs to change.

at the moment, most of the world lives in a capitalist economy. this means companies must increase sales growth and make profits in order to succeed — but crucially, not at the expense of peoples’ working conditions, health, livelihoods, dignity and creativity and not at the expense of our natural environment.

human rights abuses and environmental degradation remains rife. the harsh reality is that basic health and safety measures do not exist for many of the people working in fashion’s supply chains. the legal minimum wage in most garment-producing countries is rarely enough for workers to live on.

150 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually yet americans alone throw away approximately 14 million tonnes of garments each year, that’s over 36 kg per person. according to the environmental protection agency (EPA), 84% of unwanted clothes in the united states in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.

the way we consume clothing has changed a lot over the past 20-30 years too. we buy more clothes than we used to and spend less on them. a century ago, we spent more than half our money on food and clothes, today we spend less than a fifth. as a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago. every time we buy something that costs less than we think it should, we are implicit in the impacts of that transaction.

there's a way towards a better future. read more about how you can take action + become a part of the solution with these six easy steps. today i'm asking levi's: who made my clothes? read more about transparency in the fashion world here.