Author: Rebecca Gredley
It’s a simple question, with generally a not-so-simple answer – Who made my clothes?
Fashion Revolution began encouraging fashion shoppers to pose this question to clothing companies following the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013. The disaster killed over 1,100, and injured 2,500 workers in a Bangladeshi clothing factory. The tragedy not only brought to light the terrible working conditions in the fashion industry, but also the lack of transparency around manufacturing processes.
Fashion Revolution Week, April 18-24, is a global movement that starts with the question “Who made my clothes?” and advocates for greater transparency, traceability and environmental responsibility in the fashion supply chain. We’re also encouraging you to ask where your clothes end up at the end of their life.
Globally, there has been a 400% increase in clothing production in the last 20 years. It takes 30,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton, and 2,720 litres of water for a t-shirt (the amount one person drinks in three years) so this huge increase in clothing production has a significant toll on our natural resources. For just one pair of jeans, up to 11,000 litres of water is used, plus 37.7kg of CO2, chemicals, fuels and labour. Find out more by watching our Crop to Swap video.
Being a mindful fashion lover and using your purchasing power for good central to driving the Fashion Revolution forward. Once your beloved eco and socially conscious threads reach the end of their life what happens top them is up to you.
Melinda Tually, Fashion Revolution Co-ordinator, says the responsibility for reducing the impact of clothes is shared between brands and buyers.
“So often, we don’t look at the care label and end up shrinking or losing the colour in our clothes as we didn’t follow the instructions. Doing so goes a long way to making sure our purchases last longer so they can become valuable members of our wardrobes.”
Caring for clothing mindfully can extend its wearability, use significantly less energy, water and resources. Planet Ark has put together some tips to care for your clothes in a way that’s beneficial for the environment and shows respect for the makers of your clothes.
Does it Really Need to be Washed?
Consider if spot washing or airing out an item will suffice, rather than machine washing it. When running a load in the machine, make sure it’s full as it uses less energy to run a full wash than multiple half full washes.
Keep it Cool
Washing clothes in cold-water uses less energy than a hot water cycle – 75% of the energy used by a washing machine goes towards heating up the water. Cold water also helps garments retain dyes, quality, and they will be at less risk of losing their shape and size.
Use Responsible Detergents
Choose environmentally responsible washing products like the Aware and Orange Power ranges that are endorsed by Planet Ark. Both are palm oil free, thereby protecting venerable rainforests and are suitable for grey water systems.
Soaps and detergents that are phosphate and chemical-free are better for the environment as phosphate can cause algae, which damages the eco system. If possible, use grey water from your washing machine on the garden.
Other useful tips include air drying clothes, hanging them immediately after washing to avoid ironing, closing zips before washing, freezing denim and avoiding dry cleaning, which use harsh chemicals, when possible.
Mend to Make Amends
Rather than disposing of an item that is lightly worn, see if you (or someone you know) can fix it. A slightly worn seam can easily be sewn up and holes can be patched over. If you’re unsure how to do these just do a quick on-line search and you’ll find lots of tutorials. It will take a little effort to get the hang of, but is a tangible skill worth knowing and you’ll feel a sense of achievement.
Mending clothing doesn’t always have to be done in an invisible way; visible mending is an option that draws attention to fixed areas. Have a look.
Recycle and Donate
If an item in your wardrobe is no longer your style, doesn’t fit, or you need extra closet space there are lots of options to pass it on rather than binning it.
95% of discarded clothing doesn’t need to go landfill, as the condition is good enough to be recycled or upcycled.
Last year the Clothing and Textiles page on ReyclingNearYou received more than 330,000 visits from people looking to do the right thing, making it by far the most searched material. Each year charities redistribute 300,000 tonnes of clothing and use the funds to support their work. Use the search function to also find where you can donate clothes that can no longer be worn, such as those old gym shorts and t-shirts with holes.
Everyone has good quality items that never see the light of day. A fun way to clean out these items and freshen up your wardrobe is to host (or attend) a Swap Party with friends or colleagues. The idea is simply that you take items along to be passed on free to others who do the same. We’ve put together everything you need to host your own Swap Party including a how-to guide and video.
Fashion is more than wearing beautiful clothes - be part of the Fashion Revolution and help turn fashion into a force for good!
To find more about Fashion Revolution take a look at their Instagram, and share a photo of yourself with the tag #whomademyclothes