Fashion – Where are my clothes from and who made them?
That’s a question that more and more people are asking, often under the hashtag #whomademyclothes
The Organisation Fashion Revolution brings serious changes to the world of fashion.
A fashion revolution … why is that necessary?
Short answer: greediness
Extended answer: Isn’t it strange that greed is tied to something that has no value in itself? Paper money only retains value because whole societies believe in it.
For many, money just means everything: power, wealth, luck.
Paradoxically, half of the world’s population does not have as much money as the 8 richest people in the world. Some can afford everything and the others count every euro, cent, or whatever corresponds to the respective currency.
It’s a fact, that a lot of money can be made with exactly those people. Us.
Everybody needs clothes…
…everyone needs certain things, but through manipulative advertising we get the feeling that buying some really nice and beautiful outfits, is not enough. We never get enough because we want as much as those who can afford everything. It gives you the feeling of not being enough and of needing more and more new things.
The cherry on the top is that some people are willing to take consumer credits, just to buy things that are way too expensive and pay for them over years – just to satisfy that feeling of wanting to belong.
But it is also difficult to recognise and get out of. It’s suggested from all sides. Whether by society, our families and friends, social media, news, or newspapers. There are solutions for problems that did not exist for us until this point, but are being praised and almost forced upon us.
People earn huge amounts of money with this system because, on the one hand, they are manipulating us to want more and more and, on the other hand, pay attention to a particularly affordable production.
So, we buy and we like to buy a lot. Because whoever has more “is more”, right? (Sarcasm)
Especially with clothes, we are particularly excessive.
I guarantee you: If you have never done it before, just put all your clothing, even shoes, winter, and summer fashion on your bed. Send us a picture, tag us in your story or write us in the comments: How high is your clothes mountain? Did that surprise you and could you still climb this mountain?
Today, many fashion brands launch over 15 collections a year, so we always need a new clothing items, at least every two weeks, and often do not put our clothes on more than once.
Well, I have to admit, the quality of such clothes is also not that good, so maybe it is not possible to wear them more often. So now we come back to the actual topic …
Why is clothing so often cheap, where does it come from and #whomademyclothes?
In a four-week program provided by Fashion Revolution at futurelearn.com, those questions get answered. Fact: CO2 is emitted in every major step of the production.
So, let’s take a simple T-shirt as an example:
Here is a short list of what has to happen for getting such a shirt into our hands:
- The raw material e.g. cotton is produced and harvested
- The cotton is spun into a thread in a factory
- From this thread fabric is made and treated with specific chemicals and other
- A shirt is sewn at this factory
- The shirt probably gets stained or something will be printed on it in the next step.
- Finally, the quality is checked and the shirt packed for shipping.
In all those steps there are 1000 things that can be done differently, from the (genetically engineered) seeds, used for cotton production, to environmentally friendly or environmentally harmful packaging materials.
In addition, many things take place in different places and under different companies, which makes the traceability and assumption of responsibility of individuals considerably more difficult.
Who makes my clothes?
Those who like to shop at big fashion stores and brands can be relatively sure that the clothes were made in many different factories. In general, production is still very much outsourced to developing countries, especially in order to save costs. Here, of course, usually only companies and factories are commissioned and not newly build by themselves. Thus, responsibility for working conditions, gender equality, fair wages, is “simply” handed over to the local production and government.
In principle, however, more women (75%) than men work in such factories and working conditions are often anything else but safe, enjoyable, or “good”. In addition, working hours are different from those we know and wages do not really reflect that. Events where factory buildings collapsed or people stopped their lives because of those conditions got recorded quite some times. E.g. the factory collapse in 2013, which killed 1,134 people.
In summary, the problems of the modern and global fashion industry can be summarized:
- Low wages
- Modern slavery (forced labour, trafficking, child slavery)
- Unfair working conditions
- Young and adult women are particularly vulnerable and at risk
Ok, so what’s the solution?
What has to happen overall
If the improvement of human rights, social justice and environmental protection are taken seriously, a lot has to change in the fashion industry as well. Profit is usually the top priority. This place has to be free for the protection of our ecosystems, people’s health, and societies. Policymakers need to accelerate a far-reaching change of system in order to fight poverty, economic inequality, gender inequality, climate collapse and environmental degradation in order to reach the SDGs by 2030.
By measuring the impact of the entire supply chain, sustainable production can become an instrument for doing so. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a focus that allows brands to show real progress and leadership.
Brands and retailers also need to engage with non-governmental organisations, trade unions and multi-stakeholder initiatives to support common interests.
Co-operation within the industry is important to gain a deep understanding of the problems and potential solutions, and to tackle the root causes of human rights violations and environmental violations. This is the only way to promote real progress that leads to systemic change.
What everybody can do
Find brands that use sustainable materials and pay attention to sustainable packaging.
You can also look for various certificates such as GOTS, FAIRTRADE or Organic Cotton Standards.
At DariaDaria you can find a great listing of sustainable fashion brands and much more.
If your favourite brand has not yet incorporated the importance of this topic into their business strategy -> then ask them why. Companies want to satisfy their customers!
Only wash your clothes when necessary. Up to 700,000 microfibers dissolve in every single wash. So, the question: ”Can’t I wear this one more time before washing”, will do a lot!
In addition, there are already solutions to collect microplastic while thy are in the washing machine. (Cora Ball, Guppyfriend). Well, this is not enough to solve the problem 100%, but is a great individual contribution!
Who made my clothes? We can all ask this question and address it to different audiences who can help make the changes you want. We can write to political representatives or companies and draw attention to the urgency of this topic.
The Fashion Revolution website also offers great suggestions and help!
This does not sound like fun to you?
There are no limits for creativity to drive a positive change! Whether films, music videos, art, bike tours, marathons, fashion shows, FashMob Flashmobs, podium discussions or simply parties incorporating this topic … it does not have to be boring!
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