Asking questions is the first way to begin change.
The beauty of Fashion Revolution Week is that we all wear clothes, and we can all participate in the campaign. All we have to do is ask our favourite brands key questions that ensure the lives of garment workers are protected. So what are those questions? and why are they important?
Who Made My Clothes?
This is the first question we ask on Fashion Revolution Week. Before Rana Plaza brought the world’s attention to the plight of garment workers, many of us didn’t think about how or where our clothes were made. Asking Who Made My Clothes? is the first step, and it works on two levels. One, we as wearers of fashion make the connection between what we’re wearing and the people who stitch the clothes together. Secondly, we literally demand brands reveal the source of their products. No longer do we accept opaque supply chains, where clothing is sourced according to the lowest cost and fastest turnaround with no knowledge, or even regard for how these things are achieved. If we want an ethical fashion industry, transparency is key. We want to know who made our clothes, in what countries, even down to which factories. Once we know who made our clothes, we can ask the next four important questions.
Are They Safe?
A key change to come out of the Rana Plaza disaster is the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Accord. This agreement saw dozens high street fashion brands sign up to a regime of improved standards, inspections and training. The groundbreaking thing about the Accord is that it is legally binding, meaning brands that fail to improve standards risk being fined.
Are They Empowered?
Most of the worker rights enjoyed in many countries – such as the eight-hour working day – only came about after hard-fought battles by trade unions. Collective power is real power, but the right to join a union and organise in your workplace is not guaranteed for many garment workers. Unions can help enforce safety standards, working hours, pay and conditions. They provide a channel for workers to raise disputes and represent otherwise disempowered employees to management.