On April 24, 2014 you will hopefully see people walking around with their shirts inside out. Trust me, they didn’t do it on accident, and they aren’t doing it because they have a stain on the front and don’t have time to wash their clothes. They’re doing it in honor of Fashion Revolution Day.
One year earlier, 1,129 people were killed in Bangladesh in the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building. It is the deadliest garment-factory accident in history. The disaster shook the fashion world and showed people around the world how bad the conditions in garment factories really are, setting off a variety of campaigns supporting both the victims of the collapse and Bangladeshi clothing factory workers in general. All of a sudden, every magazine and newspaper churned up stories of other factories in the area that caught fire resulting in numerous deaths. And then it all went away. As has happened in the past, one minute everyone was concerned about where their clothing came from, and the next (after companies said they would change and safety regulations were created) everyone returned to ignorance.
American consumers in particular tend to ignore where their clothes are made, and the lives of those who make their clothes, but the people of Fashion Revolution Day are working to change that. Rana Plaza is not an isolated incident–deaths at garment factories have occurred in the past, as uncovered by journalists during the disaster, and they continue to occur. According to the creators of Fashion Revolution Day, “people are still suffering as a direct result of our fashion supply chain.” Their goal is to bring designers, celebrities, factory workers, academics, and the fashion-conscious together on the first anniversary of Rana Plaza to raise awareness of the victims and potential victims of the fashion industry. In addition, they wish to celebrate fashion and the “power it has to make big change happen fast.”
This year, their focus is “Who Made Your Clothes?” Hence the plan to wear shirts inside-out to show where your clothes came from. They will track the event on Twitter using the handle #insideout. The founder, Carry Somers, hopes to have countries around the world participate, so that everyone will begin to consider the entire process that their garment went through in order for them to wear it that day. The goal is to make the world curious about the clothes they wear, to find out where they come from and who the people are that make them, and then if they have a problem with the process to do something about it.
Retailers around the world, in addition to individuals, will be participating in the event. Fashion Revolution Day asks them to create a window display that shows customers the process each garment goes through so they can engage with those who made their clothes. Some will be hosting events in their store in honor of the day. If you know a designer, small brand, or owner of a clothing store, encourage them to go to the Fashion Revolution Day website so they can find out how to engage with the worldwide event. They have a list of educational resources on their site, including an education pack for schools, letters to educators, and everything a school, university, store, or designer would need to show their commitment to Fashion Revolution Day on social media.
A large part of the campaign is the social media/press side. Fashion Revolution Day founders hope to spread the word not only through the physical act of wearing your shirt inside out, but by blogging, tweeting, and updating your status about it on Facebook. They want to get people talking about it, which is possible through seeing someone’s shirt inside out, but then people might not understand that the point of it is to show everyone where that shirt came from, and to get them curious about who made it. With the world being the way it is, starting conversations over social media is much more likely than starting conversations between random strangers–and, on the plus side, it gets the information out to exponentially more people. So, if you would rather not change your appearance, do some research on your clothes on your own and post about it on any social media site–just be sure to add #insideout so the people behind Fashion Revolution Day can track their progress, and so you can show everyone your commitment to the day’s message.
Just to start spreading the word early, here is where my shirt came from: I am wearing a draped grey shirt from Gap that says it was made in Vietnam. But where? And who made my shirt, exactly? Women. Gap Inc. recently looked into its community investment strategy and found that about 80% of garment workers are women–rather than place a period at the end of that sentence, Gap Inc. decided that they would use that new knowledge to improve the lives of these women. In 2007 they created the P.A.C.E program, which stands for Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement, and “provides [female garment workers] with the foundational life and technical skills needed to move up in the workplace and better their own lives and the lives of those around them at home and in their communities.” I, for one, think I will be buying from Gap much more often, and applaud the company’s decision to take action in all of their factories.
So, who made YOUR clothes?For more information on the Rana Plaza building collapse, see CNN. For more on Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E program, see this article from The Daily Beast. Image courtesy Fashion Revolution Day.