The who made my clothes movement: is it changing fashion?

The who made my clothes movement: is it changing fashion?

Someone sewing on machine with who made my clothes banner

Founded in the wake of the devastating Rana Plaza disaster, the Who Made My Clothes movement shines a spotlight on the notoriously shadowy supply chains of the global fashion industry. Identified by the famous hashtag #whomademyclothes, the movement has garnered international support and prominence.

Who Started the Who Made My Clothes movement?

Created by Fashion Revolution founders Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, the Who Made My Clothes campaign asks consumers the simple question of who made your clothes? It highlights the disconnect between the clothes we wear and the places and people that made them. The movement asks consumers to demand greater supply chain transparency from the brands they buy from.

Built on the idea that no one should have to suffer for fashion, the movement encourages consumers and the industry to hold brands accountable for the safety of workers. 

Largely a social media movement, the Who Made My Clothes campaign is often characterised by images of garment workers holding signs reading #IMadeYourClothes.

Workers holding I made your clothes signs
Photo from @fashionrevolution

A Movement Born from Tragedy

This movement that works to do so much good in the clothing and garment industry was born out of tragedy. In 2013, the devastating Rana Plaza disaster shocked the world. On 24 April in Dhaka, at least 1,132 factory workers lost their lives when Rana Plaza, a building housing five garment factories, collapsed.

Making this heart-breaking tragedy even more sobering, was the fact that it was avoidable. Management had been made aware of cracks threatening the building’s structural integrity the previous day but had ordered workers back inside to meet tight industry deadlines.

Over 1,000 people died and over 2,500 were injured in one of the worst industrial disasters in the modern fashion industry, ordered back into an unsafe building to make t-shirts, jeans and jackets.

To learn more about the Bangladeshi garment sector, check out our article here.

The Rana Plaza tragedy, although the deadliest garment factory disaster in history, is not a stand-alone incident in the fashion and garment sector. Less than a year before that fateful day in April, over 100 people lost their lives when a fire broke out in the Tazreen Fashions factory.

Since the Rana Plaza collapse, there have been over 100 other recorded accidents that have occurred in garment factories and fashion supply chains.

Who is Fashion Revolution?

Fashion Revolution logo
Free resource courtesy of Fashion Revolution
Free resource courtesy of Fashion Revolution

The Who Made My Clothes movement and Fashion Revolution have been intertwined since the beginning. In many ways, the movement is an extension of the other work that Fashion Revolution does.

The world’s biggest fashion activism movement, Fashion Revolution is trying to create systemic change across the fashion sector. The global non-profit campaigns for a fairer and safer fashion industry. Two key activities of the Fashion Revolution movement are Fashion Revolution Week and the Fashion Transparency Index.

Fashion Revolution Week

Commemorating the Rana Plaza collapse, this yearly event brings together people from all corners of the fashion sector. Industry experts, designers, brands, consumers, producers, policymakers and more all come together to call for a better fashion industry.

The event helps to raise awareness of the issues facing the textile and fashion industry. It also enables productive discussions and workshops to try and solve these issues.

A global event, the week sees activities happening around the world. Workshops, webinars, open studios and much more are a part of this annual campaign. Every year the week has a new theme that is reflective of ongoing challenges the fashion sector is facing and that represents the current problems of the industry.

In 2021, the theme was Rights, Relationships and Revolution, representing the need for social and environmental change in the industry. In 2022, the issues of inequality and exploitation were explored.

Fashion Transparency Index

The Fashion Transparency Index, as the name may suggest, examines brands’ supply chain transparency and traceability. The index takes an in-depth look at 250 of the biggest global fashion brands. It is a yearly review that examines the level of information on human rights, environmental policies, activities and practices that brands willingly disclose to the public.

Companies that disclose more detailed information for their entire supply chain are ranked as more transparent than those that disclose little information. All the data gathered is compiled to give an overview of transparency in the industry.

In 2021 brands achieved an average overall score of just 21% on the Index. In the same year, no brand scored above 78%, with OVS scoring the highest, and brands including Roxy and Fashion Nova scoring a shocking 0%.

Some brands scored a shocking 0% on the Fashion Transparency Index. Photo by Erika Ortiz from Pexels

The Benefits of Transparency

While transparency doesn’t guarantee a fair or sustainable fashion brand, it is the first step towards it. Transparent supply chains and policies give consumers an informed choice about where and how the fashion they buy was made.

The index helps to hold brands accountable for their supply chain policies and actions by highlighting the information, or lack of, that they readily provide.

What Does Fashion Revolution Stand For?

Fashion Revolution and Who Made my Clothes are global movements that try and change the fashion industry at all levels. They aim to create a sector that is clearer in its operations and that is kinder to people and the planet. To do this, it focuses on a variety of different areas that need to improve to create a better industry.

Based in the UK, the organisation operates worldwide, with offices in fourteen different countries across Europe, Asia and South America.

Wages, Workers, and Conditions

The organisation was founded in an inequitable fashion system thriving on exploitation and poor working conditions. It was created to stand for improving the lives and conditions that workers have to face.

This includes paying fair and living wages (differing from minimum wages that often don’t cover basic living costs). It also includes providing working conditions that are safe and free from preventable hazards.

Human Rights and Fair Trade

Since the Industrial Revolution, the fashion sector has been rife with human rights abuses. Fashion Revolution wants this to change. It’s working to create a new sort of revolution, spawning an industry that protects workers’ rights and the environment.

Practices including punishing workers for unionizing, employing children, forcing unpaid overtime as well as exploitation and slavery are all issues that the fashion industry faces. By advocating for a transparent and accountable sector, Fashion Revolution is helping to change this.

For more on the history of sustainable fashion, see History of a movement: when did sustainable fashion start? 

Transparency and Systemic Change

Fashion Revolution and the Who Made My Clothes movement are about more than changing one brand, one business model or one part of the supply chain. They are about creating lasting and systemic change. Change that empowers workers and consumers to demand a better industry and invites everyone in the fashion sector to have a seat at the table.

Workers making clothes in a factory
Fashion Revolution tries to create lasting and systematic change. Photo by Allan Wadsworth on Unsplash

How do Fashion Revolution make change?

The organisation campaigns governments, encourages consumer involvement and works with brands to transform policies and practices. Fashion Revolution even played an integral part in developing the EU strategy for sustainable textiles.

It also incentivizes and facilitates brands to take a more sustainable approach. It hosts the mentoring program Fashion Open Studio for new designers and launched Small But Perfect, a program to facilitate circular fashion solutions.

The movement also encourages consumers to get involved and become activists. This goes beyond just joining events and promoting the social media hashtag. 

Fashion Revolution free resources
Image taken from Fashion Revolution's website

The Who Made My Clothes movement inspires shoppers to write to their favourite brands to ask for supply chain transparency and better conditions. They even offer free resources to help consumers do this (see above).

To learn more about why we need sustainable and ethical fashion, check out our article Why is Sustainable and Ethical Fashion Important?

The Clean Clothes Campaign

Started in the Netherlands in 1989, the Clean Clothes Campaign is another organisation working to create positive change. The campaign has grown to now include over 235 organisations in its network operating in more than 45 countries worldwide.

Like Fashion Revolution, the organisation aims to protect the rights and safety of workers and to improve working conditions in the textile sector. In some ways taking a more specific approach, the organisation also works to identify local problems in the industry. It has resources to support workers and groups fighting against rights violations.

Workers dyeing clothes in a dyeing plant
The Clean Clothes Campaign also looks to protect the rights and safety of workers in the textile industry. Photo by Johannes Pokorn on Unsplash

What Has Been the Impact of These Movements?

In the nine years since the Rana Plaza collapse, the Who Made My Clothes movement and Fashion Revolution have made a vital impact.

In 2018, the Fashion Transparency Index saw companies average a score of 35% on data published regarding factory lists. This same year, 3.25 million people asked the question #whomademyclothes? during Fashion Revolution Week. The hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes also received almost 100 million impressions on Twitter.

The Fashion Transparency Index has seen some improvement in the industry. While the overall average score stayed steady at 23% in 2021, the same as the 2020 average, scores in several individual sections that were monitored did improve.

In the 2021 Transparency Index, brands averaged a score of 19% in traceability, up from 16% in 2020. Similarly, the average score for Policies and Commitment rose by 1% and  27% of major brands disclosed their processing facilities in 2021, compared to 24% in the prior year.

Images of workers holding the #IMadeYourClothes sign or sections directly relating to the campaign can be found on the websites of well-known brands including People Tree, Rapanui, Thought, Lucy and Yak, and Fatface to name just a few. 

Also in 2021, Fashion Revolution Week reached 569 million people just through social media channels. It also saw 230,000 people attend global network events.

These movements have grown to be worldwide networks and a voice for the underprivileged in the fashion industry. As they increase awareness of the issues in the industry, advocate for transparency, and pressure factory owners and fashion companies to operate more responsibly, the more this change will come. 

Fashion Revolution signs being held on the catwalk
Fashion Revolution has reached millions of people. Photo by Francois Le Nguyen on Unsplash

The Who Made My Clothes Movement

The Who Made My Clothes movement has become an international network. A network that’s working to create a fairer, safer, kinder and more sustainable fashion industry.

Standing for the rights of fashion workers all over the world, the movement has gained international prominence. It has become a driving force in creating systemic change across the sector.

While there is still a way to go, Fashion Revolution is working to make sure we all know the answer to the important question of who made your clothes?

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