From the 22th until the 28th of April we celebrated Fashion Revolution week. The global movement started after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in 2013. This disaster, which killed 1138 and injured more than 2500 people working in the textile industry, drew huge attention to the sad reality of the global fashion industry. Since then, the Fashion revolution movement has been aiming to change the textile industry, in which production is outsourced to low-wage countries where thousands of people work under terrible circumstances. Six years after the disaster that initiated it, the Fashion Revolution movement is bigger than ever. But what has really changed for the workers on site?
Our clothes have gone on a long journey before they hit store shelves, passing through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and others. Approximately 75 million people work to make our clothes. 80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35. However, the majority of the people who make clothes for the global market live in poverty, unable to afford life’s basic necessities. Many are subject to exploitation; verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe and dirty conditions, with very little payment. And this is 2019.
We believe that the whole fashion industry needs a radical paradigm shift and that the way that we produce and consume clothes needs to be transformed essentially. So every year the Fashion Revolution movement speaks up for a more transparent, safe and ethical production process in the fashion industry. For instance by making people worldwide turn their clothes inside out and ask brands ‘Who made my clothes?’. Although the number of responses is growing, the problems of the industry are far from being solved. That’s why every year in April, people worldwide come up with a variety of actions to show governments and citizens that we are all in this together.
Hamburg – Fashion Revolution move
There were plenty of activities in Bridge&Tunnel’s hometown Hamburg. People took part in clothes swap events, plenary discussions, expert-talks and a documentary night. All the activities were wrapped up with something new this year: a Fashion Revolution Move on Saturday. The theme of the walk was denim. Accompanied by the shoutout “Your jeans make politics!” this topic couldn’t have fitted us better! After all, denim is still one of the most polluting and short-lived textiles in the fashion industry.
That’s why many people from Hamburg took to the streets. To demonstrate for a fair, environmentally friendly and respectful fashion industry. Because the topic, as elitist as it may seem, really does concern all of us. After all, climate change and feminist issues are closely linked in the garment industry – a huge economic power. We get goosebumps when we see what power can unfold from a shared mindset. And how great it feels to know that we are not alone in our fight for a slower and fairer fashion industry.
Watch a movie of the move here.
Hang me up!
The move passed some of the fair fashion stores in Hamburg that already try to make a difference, like Glore, B-Lage and Captain Svensson. We set ourselves up at the final station, Werte Freunde, where we organized a denim wall hanging workshop. Participants were invited to bring their own old jeans and repurpose them. They took inspiration from the examples crafted by the Bridge&Tunnel team, but used their own creativity to make their unique wall hangings. Because as important as it is to change working conditions in the fashion industry worldwide, it is also so important to use existing resources. For us, upcycling is one way of contributing to a fairer and slower fashion scene.
Let’s get political!
We look back on an inspiring Fashion Revolution week. However, we are still not where we should be. The international movement is active in 90 countries and has already achieved a lot. Last year alone, the campaign reached 275 million people offline and online, which is 83% more than in the year bfore. Also, the Transparency Index of large companies increased by 9% in the last two years and the average for the largest 300 companies rose to 21% (source: Fashion Revolution Transparency Index 2019). Media turmoil and increasing transparency of companies are above all discursive, but far from enough!
That’s why we urgently have to take the topic to the parliaments! As consumers in Germany, we would never dream of entrusting companies with the task of protecting our human rights on a national base. This is clearly a task of the state. Absurdly, however, in the fashion industry we accept the fact that companies commit themselves to adhere to certain international labour standards and thus to protect the human and labour rights of producers in developing countries.
In 2014, the German government initiated the Textile Alliance, a voluntary association of companies, trade, NGOs and trade unions, whose members have been developing individual measures to improve the textile supply chains. At the end of 2016, the Textile Alliance had 200 members. But by now it has only 120 members, because the Textile Alliance has entered the binding phase.
Last year, on 24.04.2018, FOLKDAYS founder Lisa Jaspers therefore started the petition “Stop companies who accept human rights abuses”. Within a very short time, more than 110,000 people signed. One year has passed and it is still difficult, if not impossible, to hold German companies responsible for human rights violations in the countries they produce in. There are still no due diligence obligations. Therefore, the petition now goes to the second edition.
Lisa Jaspers as well as numerous supporters demand the German Federal government again: show responsibility! The demand is accompanied by the Hashtag #fairbylaw. The petition calls Angela Merkel and the responsible ministries to finally get their act together. Germany can no longer hide behind non-binding textile alliances and action plans, but must create laws. German companies must be blamed for human rights violations in their own supply chains.
Our neighbour France gives the right example: last year they passed a law on corporate due diligence that is unique in its significance and scope for human rights in the textile industry. Lisa Jaspers’ petition demands the same for Germany! If you haven’t yet, sign it here!
In the meantime, Bridge&Tunnel will continue to contribute to a more fair fashion industry, so we can say: “I made your clothes”.