FASHION // What is Fashion Revolution?

Written by Lianne Bell @liannebell @enchantedrebels [contributor]

Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. Something which, essentially, we don’t actually need. As much as I love fashion and everything that comes with it, what we use to cover our modesty is not a matter of life or death. Unfortunately for the people that manufacture our clothing that’s exactly what it is and the deeper you delve into the fashion industry the darker it becomes.

Illustration by Oh!dear! @ohdearartist

Illustration by Oh!dear! @ohdearartist

It’s been widely reported in the media for a fair few years now that the people that sew our clothing are paid extremely low wages. However, the manufacture of the actual garment is only the tip of the iceberg. The entire supply chain of the fashion industry is peppered with unpleasantries. For example, even though cotton sourced from Uzbekistan has been banned by most UK retailers there is still a 1 in 5 chance something in our wardrobe is made from Uzbek cotton because there is just no way of tracing the cotton. For want of a more eloquent term, the Uzbekistan cotton harvest is brutal. The government closes all of the schools for 3 months and forces the children to handpick the cotton from the fields. The children suffer with exhaustion and dehydration as they work 12-14hrs every day in freezing temperatures.

After the cotton harvest, let’s say this cotton makes its way to China to be made into a pair of jeans. What happens next? Well the chances are it will end up in the town of Xintang in China. Xintang is one of the biggest global manufacturers of denim. If you were to buy a pair of jeans anywhere in the world there is a 1 in 3 chance that they were manufactured in that town. That’s a pretty crazy statistic. The town of Xintang is so polluted that the town’s river, which is a water source for towns further downstream, runs indigo blue because of all the chemicals dumped in there. The factories are no longer a place of employment for local people, indeed, they are all to aware of what happens to your health when you work there. Instead the factories are filled with temporary migrant workers tempted by the high wages. But we all know deep down if it’s too good to be true then it probably is. The chemicals used in the denim dying process are extremely toxic, the wages are high because of how dangerous it is, and then there is also the issue of sandblasting. You know that worn look we all love on our jeans, and trust me I do too, well it’s traditionally done by blasting sand onto the denim. This releases silica which causes silicosis, a fatal lung disease. Many factory workers have died from this disease and it’s worth noting that whilst many UK retailers have banned this practice it is still taking place because it is the cheapest way to get the desired result.

On the 24th April 2013 the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,133 people. On the morning of the factory collapse many of the workers had refused to go into the building, cracks had begun to show in the walls and the factory workers knew that the building was unsafe. However, they were told that if they refused to go to work they would lose their wage for the entire month. Already living in poverty their families would quite literally starve, they had no option. Many of them never returned home. Garment workers are some of the lowest paid workers in the world and a staggering 80% of them are women. Fashion Revolution, founded by Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers is an annual event which now takes place in over 90 countries around the world. The event is held on the 24th April to commemorate the Rana Plaza disaster and encourages consumers to ask their favourite brands, who made my clothes? To get involved all you have to do is take a picture of your clothing label and share it on social media with the hashtag #whomademyclothes tagging the company that made the garment. There is no time for blame, there is only time for change. Join the revolution.

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Writter by Lianne Bell who is Co-founder of UK based ethical womenswear label Enchanted Rebels (contributor) 

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