This Sunday, 24th April 2016, will mark the three year anniversary of the building collapse in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh that killed 1,134 garment workers and injured over 2,500 others.These were workers who were making the clothes that we buy on our highstreets. But as we pause in remembrance of this tragedy, we can also celebrate the positives that have come from it.
Fashion Revolution was started as a response to the events at Rana Plaza. It is a global movement that runs all year, celebrating fashion as a positive influence, raising awareness of the fashion industry’s most pressing issues, showing that change is possible and celebrating those who are on a journey to create a more ethical and sustainable future for fashion. http://fashionrevolution.org/
The movement also runs Fashion Revolution Week every year to coincide with the anniversary of Rana Plaza – this year Fashion Revolution Week is the 18th – 24th April. The event is used to encourage people to ask the question “Who made my clothes?” It is about finding out the stories of the real people behind the clothes we wear.
So how are we at Fair and Fabulous involved? Well all of the clothing and accessories we sell, from scarves to baby’s bibs, are sourced from BAFTS accredited importers. This means that we know that the producers are working in safe conditions for fair wages and that everything is made with the highest environmental standards. It also means that we know the backstory behind our products, so we can always tell who made our clothes.
To take one example, lets talk pants. After all, Fairtrade starts from the bottom up! How often do you think about your knickers unless you have a hot date? Well, anyone who has visited us at an event knows that we whip ours out at every possible opportunity, whether its using them as bunting at a wedding fair or hanging them out to dry at a festival.
But we don’t just want to show them off because they are beautiful, its also because we know they are made by Malabar Memsahib, a women’s stitching co-operative in mid-Kerala. This enterprising initiative was started by a group of skilled women who were facing a difficult future with no work. When not selling or stitching for local customers, the ladies make fair trade knickers and baby products for Kerala Crafts in the UK. Kerala Crafts can provide a channel for marketing the products which encourages the women to feel empowered by the demand for their goods. ‘….this is like an assured source of income for us. Even sometimes the local stitchings become really low we can still do the knicker order and make up the money to run our family’.
Our importer Christine runs Kerala Crafts from Bristol and her business has won prizes in the South West Fairtrade Business Awards two years running. She founded the company following a holiday in Kerala where she witnessed the plight of many marginalised people, particularly women. I buy the products from her and myself and Jill sell them from our shop in Newcastle Emlyn, where you can buy them secure in the knowledge that you know who made your clothes – each pair comes with a picture of the ladies who made them, so there is no way you can forget!
So that is the story of our pants, from stitch to store. This is Seetha – she made our pants!
And what else can we do as consumers? If we have to have something new, then let’s make sure it is ethically sourced. If you can’t answer the question#whomademyclothes then contact the manufacturer to find out. Charity shops are a great way to recycle clothing, and if you are handy with a needle there is always upcycling too. In whatever way we take action we need to take responsibility for what is done in our name as fashion consumers, this week and every week.