“Buy less, choose well, make it last.” -Vivienne Westwood
It’s easy not to care about our clothes. We live in a culture where our clothing has no value anymore, clothing exists in a haze of disposable fashion, impulse buys and fast fashion fixes. Our dollars and minds are geared toward getting a deal that only impacts us.
But guess what? The clothes we purchase do impact more than just us, they directly impact the person who makes them. Rarely do we know that our clothing choices unwillingly support inequality, child labor, unfair pay, destruction of the environment, and unsafe working conditions.
Six years ago, a clothing factory (Rana Plaza) collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The building had visible structural issues that the garment workers had complained about. Due to the crazy pressure by western brand’s to complete orders quickly and inexpensively, the factory owner ignored all warnings. Over a 1,000 lives were lost, the lives of people who made our clothes.
The majority of them lived in poverty, unable to afford life’s basic necessities. They were subject to exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe and dirty conditions, and with very little pay. As a result, the week of April 24th is Fashion Revolution Week, where we honor those lives by using our voices to demand transparency in the fashion industry by asking the brands, Who Made My Clothes? The more we ask, the more they will listen.
Last year my kids and I asked brands #whomademyclothes?
The problems in the fashion industry are overwhelming and not going to change overnight. But what can we do as consumers about our clothing purchases? We are not going to stop buying them, nor should we (it’s a huge global economic industry)! We can, however, buy less (be mindful about whether you need it or not), choose well (give your money to brands/shops that are open and transparent) and make your clothing last (love your clothes, give them value, repair/mend and re-wear). We could change the system to one that cares about every person in the supply chain and doesn’t waste the earth’s resources.
Kids Activity: 8 Steps to Get Kids Curious About Their Clothes
1. Let them pick out their favorite item of clothing.
2. Ask them, "Do you know where it was made or by whom?"
3. Show them that they can always find out where it was made on the tag.
4. Locate that country on a map and talk about how far or how close it is to your home and the journey it took to get to you.
5. Now for who made it, a bit more challenging. Show them the brand name can be found on the tag and that the brand is who makes the clothes, and some people’s jobs are to work for that brand. Sometimes these people are treated fairly and kindly and sometimes they are not.
6. Locate the brand page on-line and see if you can find out on their website any information on who makes their clothes. Here are the keywords/areas to look for: About Us, Sustainability, Social Responsibility, Supply Chain, Modern Slavery, etc.
**Adults, you might need to do a little research and get back to your kiddos on where the brand falls on the spectrum of “kindness” by doing step 6.**
7. Talk to your kids about what you found out.
8. Repeat this activity once in a while to keep the conversation going and your kiddo just might ask you out of the blue as kids often do, “can we look on the map to see where my shirt was made?”
My kids picked a vest and a skirt (both bought second hand), by Gymboree. Vest was made in Vietnam and the skirt in Indonesia. When I went to research the brand, turns out Gymboree is going out of business so their website is stripped of all content, but they were around for 43 years! Would it be safe to say their negative impact on the fashion industry will not be missed?
The Ethical Style Collective, in collaboration with local Zero Waste bloggers Erica Wells of A Waste Not Kind Of Life and Elizabeth Farner of A Little Less Trashy, are hosting a screening of the documentary The True Cost at The Beet at Ellwood Thompson's in honor of Fashion Revolution Week on April 23rd at 7 p.m. This important documentary shows the impact the fast fashion industry has on people and the planet.