This Fashion Revolution Week we've teamed up with No Planet B for a night of talks, music and a panel discussion on the future of fashion and ethical practices.
Join us on Saturday 27th April and grab 20% off your ticket with code BEYOND20, click here to purchase!
With an amazing panel line up from Fashion Revolution, Know The Origin, Stories Behind Things and Stay Wild Swim, we spoke to them to tell us more about what they do and how they are supporting ethical practices.
Please can you tell us about Fashion Revolution and the global movement you have created?
Fashion Revolution began in 2013 as a response to the Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed over 1,100 people, most of whom were young, female garment workers producing clothing for major global fashion brands.
In the wake of the tragedy, co-founder Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro came together to create a movement that would effect lasting change in the industry. Since then, Fashion Revolution has been campaigning for a more transparent fashion industry, by engaging citizens, brands, policymakers, students, and educators around the world. In 2018, we had over 275 million people globally engage with our campaign.
Why is it important to consider who made our clothes?
Fashion is one of the most labour intensive industries in the world. When I was studying fashion design in my early university days, I learned that clothing production is much more difficult to automate than seemingly more complicated products like phones and computers. Why? Because robots and machines have greater difficulty manipulating soft goods like fabric than they do assembling hard parts.
Millions of people around the world work in the garment industry, and too often these jobs come with low pay, long hours, and unsafe working conditions. Too many garment workers are subject to verbal and physical abuse among other kinds of exploitation.
So at Fashion Revolution, we begin with the question "Who made my clothes?", to look behind the curtain at the often-secretive supply chain. It's impossible for us to enact change if we can't see the problems. This is the essence of why we are demanding a more transparent fashion industry and why we must continue to ask #Whomademyclothes?
How can someone join your movement and support slow, ethical fashion?
With Fashion Revolution Week 2019 just around the corner (April 22-28), hundreds of events will take place around the world. You can find a global events directory on our website, and find clothing swaps, panel discussions, film screenings, and so many other activations wherever you live.
We also have a guide to getting involved here, which is a great way to take part in our digital campaigns, write to a brand or policymaker, and begin asking the right questions.
What are some key impacts that fast fashion has on people and on the planet?
This year, we at Fashion Revolution are spreading the message that you cannot separate human and planetary sustainability. The activists around the world leading climate marches are campaigning for peace and human rights as much as they are campaigning for a policy that addresses carbon emissions and pollution. Because without a healthy planet, there will be no supply chains, safe working conditions, or fair fashion.
Quantis has estimated that globally, the fashion industry contributes to around 8.1% of climate impacts. Of course, fast-fashion's environmental impacts reach everything from water pollution and contamination to deforestation, landfill contribution, and waste incineration. The garment industry has also been flagged by the Global Slavery Index as the 2nd highest at-risk product category for Modern Slavery.
If you want to learn more about the full scope of fashion's impact, I'd recommend the UK Environmental Audit Committee's Fixing Fashion Report, which documents their investigation into the sustainability of the Fashion Industry. Our policy director, Sarah Ditty, was one of the witnesses who submitted evidence to their report, and we're proud to have seen some of these issues addressed through the EAC's policy recommendations. You can read the report here.
Please could you tell us about Know The Origin and what products you offer?
Know The Origin is a multibrand platform, bringing together 70+ brands that have pioneering levels of ethics from clothing made from bamboo, pineapple and recycled plastic, to sustainability and plastic free conscious living essentials. We also create our own brand of clothing, KTO. It is a Fairtrade and Organic fashion brand working to set a new standard of transparency in the fashion industry. From the farm to the factory we work with socially and environmentally focused businesses that are pioneering new ethical standards across India. These producer groups were started to alleviate poverty or address injustices such as human trafficking or farmer suicide rates from GM related debt. In 2017 we were ranked Ethical Consumer’s top-rated fashion brand due to our commitment to the highest standards of Fairtrade, organic and fully transparent supply chains. KTO has been also featured on Forbes 30 under 30 lists, Evening Standard, Guardian and Refinery 29.
How is KTO setting new ethical standards in the fashion industry?
Currently, 61% of brands don't know who made their clothes and 93% don't know where the fabrics come from. Charlotte was inspired to start KTO after finding that the lack of transparency within fashion supply chains had led to abuses of human rights and environmental degradation worldwide. Through developing strong relationships with incredible organic and fairtrade producers across India, Know The Origin shows people that fashion can, and should, be done differently. Know The Origin respects people and the environment at every stage of the supply chain from cotton farming to the final factory with traceability and high ethical standards at the heart of its work. We have created standards of 25 criteria across people, planet and purpose behind businesses. All of the brands on our platform are required to meet 6 of these standards and provide full traceability, which makes us incredibly unusual.
Why should we think twice about supporting high-street chain stores?
It is fascinating how easy it is to be disconnected from the impact we have on people around the world. We walk down the high street and see beautiful clothing, and seek quality in the pieces we buy, whilst completely disregarding the quality of the person’s life who has made it. When we realise our money is the power to vote for change, then it has the ability to transform an industry. Through supporting smaller, certified and transparent brands we can grow the kind of cultures we want to see in these industries. I think unless high street stores are unable to offer transparency, it is unlikely they know where the pieces are made, or whether they are slave free.
Can you offer 3 top tips for someone wanting to make more ethical fashion choices?
- Get educated, films like The True Cost perfectly represent the major issues that are currently at the forefront of fast fashion.
- Start with small changes and grow, that's what produces sustainable change.
- Only buy items that you'll wear 30+ times.
- Aim to buy items that are 100% fibre, natural products that can break down and will one day decompose.
Please can you tell us about Craftivist Collective and the movement you have created?
I set up the Craftivist Collective as a group in 2009 after people around the world wanted to join in my craftivism projects and unique 'gentle protest' methodology. I started doing craftivism in 2008 after feeling like a burnt out activist in my personal life as well as being a professional campaigner in my day job too. I picked up a cross stitch small craft kit up and noticed how repetitive stitches especially overwriting helped me engage more deeply in the complex injustice issues I cared about and think more critically about how I could be more strategic, compassionate and ultimately effective in my activism.
I focus on hand embroidery and paper crafts both heavily focused on the importance of the words created, the colours we use, the textures, fonts and design and with activism as our priority and craft as our tool. Over the last 10 years, I've learnt a huge amount, honed my craft in craftivism and written honestly about where I think craft can be useful for activism and where it might not be. My book How To Be A Craftivist: the art of gentle protest explains my unique methodology and is full of case studies and testimonies of how our projects have worked.
Craftivist Collective aims to inspire, educate, and empower people to engage in more strategic, kind activism to improve our world without burning out. I encourage craftivist to stop, think carefully and act effectively to improve the systems and structures that exist within our society. Always inclusive, always collaborative, always positive, I strive to create an inviting environment in which all are welcome into the Craftivist Collective to craft towards a fairer, more beautiful world with courage and care. I'm proud to say that our craftivism projects have helped to change laws and business policies as well as hearts and minds around the world.
What is your approach to mindful activism?
I have a whole chapter in my book on 'Mindful Activism' - it's all about using the slow, repetitive action of craft to be mindful of how our bodies are feeling, how our mood is, what baggage are we bringing to our craftivism or activism and do we have a robust activism strategy to tackle the injustice we see or are we just reacting rather than proactively planning? Using the comfort of craft and the time it takes to do, we can slow down and really ask ourselves these big questions, be honest with ourselves.
Activism is about engaging other complex human beings especially those who disagree with us and that is really difficult. And that's why we need to be even more mindful of what we are bringing to our activism that might help or harm our actions.
How can someone get involved with your group stitch-ins and what are the benefits of attending?
The benefits depend on if you come to our sessions with an open heart and an open mind and the results can be different for different people in the same workshop. Our projects are all different so each one will engage you with a different issue and technique to not only help with the cause your project is about but also help train you to be a more confident thoughtful craftivist who can use our 'gentle protest' approach to craftivism in your own campaigns too.
Wherever you are in the world alone or with others you can take part in our projects - some using our free resources, others using our ethical kits (to help the collective survive and thrive). You can create your own 'crafternoon' or evening workshop with friends or at an existing group and we have top tips on our website here how to set them up yourself. I do deliver workshops and stitch-ins so keep an eye on our Instagram or Facebook page for updates.
What would your 3 top tips be for someone wanting to support slow fashion?
- Be curious - research who made your clothes, check the label on new clothes, ask the shop staff if the company has an ethical policy
- Enjoy slow fashion - enjoy learning about the wonderful stories of people who are part of this movement and the skill, energy and love they put into the products. Share these good news stories to attract people to join the movement rather than guilt-trip them into joining
- Be a strategic changemaker - we need to help change structures and systems of fast fashion as well as change our own habits and actions. This can be joining Fashion Revolutions actions, becoming a shareholder activist of a fashion brand (one of my craftivism projects was in collaboration with ShareAction and led to 50,000 employees of one company gaining a pay rise in line with the real Living Wage), shopdropping our Mini Fashion Statements (which gained worldwide media attention including the homepage of BBC News) or finding your own loving and strategic way to challenge those in positions of power to be part of slow fashion for the sake of our fragile planet. Be strategic, kind, positive, encouraging and respectful in your activism and it makes it much harder for the industry to ignore you.