Amplifying and Celebrating Fashion Revolutionaries Across the United States: A Look Back at Fashion Revolution Week 2021
Fashion Revolution Week is the time when we come together as a global community to create a better fashion industry. It centers around the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,138 people and injured many more on April 24, 2013.
This year, as we marked eight years since the tragedy, Fashion Revolution Week focused on the interconnectedness of human rights and the rights of nature. Our campaign in the USA amplified unheard voices across the fashion supply chain and harnessed the creativity of our community to explore innovative and interconnected solutions.
Below, get a glimpse at our over 20 events bringing together 67 makers, doers, and changemakers within the field, delving into topics of land, water and air; ownership; workers; nature; gender; education; and what we can all do to be moved toward action for a better fashion future. As well, our volunteer network of Regional Coordinators, City Leads, and Student Ambassadors brought the fashion revolution to life in new and unique ways in their communities, helping the movement grow throughout the United States.
Monday, April 19: Land, Air, and Water
Hashtag Revolt: Through our global coordinated effort to infiltrate the #hashtags of many #fastfashion brands, the #hashtagrevolt campaign attracted over 500 posts across social media channels. We’re grateful to our partner organizations and industry leaders that helped us to reach citizens outside of the sustainable fashion echo chamber, including @Greenpeace, @FairTradeCertified (our co-branded partner!), @chicksforclimate, @ecoage, @canopyplanet, @marinatestino, @amandahearst, @stand.earth, What the Hack (who launched a hack-a-thon to amplify these efforts) and many others! Fashion Revolution USA’s messaging successfully disrupted the fast fashion brands’ hashtag feeds on April 19th, sparking international curiosity among concerned citizens.
Environmental Racism and the Fashion Industry: Laura Diez from Ecochic Podcast helped us tackle the topic of #EnvironmentalRacism in the fashion industry and how it shows up in the USA. With race being the top predictor of a person living near contaminated soil, air, or water; she described some of the environmental injustices that occur in BIPOC communities, in practice and policy. She covered racism, redlining, Superfund sites, and what legal tools exist to combat these injustices. This conversation highlights how pollution and destruction of land, water, and air by the fashion industry negatively impact BIPOC communities here in America and brought awareness to how individuals can push for policy and industry changes.
Challenging Fashion’s Relationship with Land, Air, and Water: We kicked off Fashion Revolution Week with a deep discussion on fashion’s relationship with land, air, and water highlighting a cross sector of BIPOC thought leaders from around the globe. The conversation covered how our current western-centered worldview sees nature only as a resource, rather than an equal, and how fashion has been used as a means to erase cultures and traditions of people of color for centuries. Reparations are needed in the fashion industry to bring more womxn and BIPOC individuals to the table, bringing them into positions of leadership and slowing down the fashion industry as a whole to be in mutual relationship and respect with land, air, and water.
Tuesday, April 20: Ownership
Access & Ownership of Sustainable Fashion: Maya and Mica Caine, co-founders of Mive, discussed the roots of regenerative and sustainable practices in fashion and who has access to sustainable fashion. They highlighted how the “sustainable fashion” movement has been co-opted and rebranded, although the roots of regenerative and sustainable practices have been practiced by Indigenous peoples and communities of color for generations. Maya and Mica talked about pushing the fashion industry to consider ways to go beyond tokenism when practicing representation, bringing in more BIPOC individuals in leadership positions, highlighting designers, and making fashion more accessible for everyone. A notable quote from their IG Live conversation: ‘“Marketing is not an education.”
Who Owns Textile Waste?: Tara St. James, designer and consultant; Camille Tagle, co-founder and creative director of Fabscrap; Liz Ricketts, co-founder of The OR Foundation; and Chloe Assam, designer, researcher, community organizer and manager of Ghana Operations for The OR Foundation joined the Re:Sourced Fashion club on Clubhouse to talk about ownership of textile waste. Notably, Liz asked a poignant question related to retailer take-back programs and their realistic value: “Who has the right to profit from this waste?” Moderators also discussed the need for local and global policy change to tackle the issue of textile waste and also the regulation of the secondhand clothing trade, with Camille citing the opportunities that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies present.
Cultural Appropriation and the Fashion Industry: In an industry inspired by nature, culture, and the world around us, fashion walks a fine line between cultural appreciation and appropriation. This visually focused session brought together diverse perspectives, including an academic, historian, activist, designer, and researcher, to take on the nuances of Cultural Appropriation in Fashion. Eugenia Paulicelli focused on the importance of fashion studies programs in including more cultural awareness and understanding of these intricacies, while Darnell Jamal Lisby showcased the balances designers have made between adoptive and permissive appropriation. Regardless of the inspiration or origins of a design, Brenda Equihua, a designer who balances her own creative process and bringing in cultural honor to her work, spoke to the intentionality of the process. “Intention means you take the time. The [fashion] industry currently isn’t set up for that.” Manpreet Kaur Kalra, an educator and activist, emphasized the need for understanding who holds the power and benefits most from the work, including who profits, what stories are told about the specific culture, and how we can honor the artisan and culture as the true original designer.
Wednesday, April 21: Workers
Ethical Narratives in the Fashion Industry: Manpreet Kaur Kalra, educator and podcaster at Art of Citizenry, and Joy McBrien, founder of Fair Trade brand Fair Anita, explored what it means to decolonize storytelling, practicing informed consent in crafting a narrative, and the power dynamics that we don’t consider in telling someone else’s story – even with good intentions. They discussed the power imbalances between the global north and the global south, how continually telling stories of others’ trauma perpetuates a single narrative and furthers the othering of our relationships with other cultures. Ultimately, your story is the only one that you own, and when you are telling someone else’s story, consider the power and privilege of having control over the narrative you’re sharing, ask how someone else wants their story shared, and center the maker as an individual, outside of their pain and trauma.
Mass Translation Posters: In partnership with Gabrielle Vazquez, Fashion Revolution USA’s NYC City Lead, with support from Alessandra Brescia and other creatives, our Instagram channel debuted a new mass translation project of our #IMadeYourClothes campaign into four languages: Kapampangan, Quechua, Catalan and Taíno. To learn more about the fashion revolution efforts in the countries where these languages are predominantly spoken, visit the webpages of our global teams in the Philippines, Colombia, Peru and Spain.
State of Play: Garment Worker Protections in the United States: To raise awareness around policy SB62 and the exploitation of garment workers in Los Angeles, Fashion Revolution USA hosted an informative panel featuring Sen. María Elena Durazo, Dr. Elizabeth Segran, Ayesha Barenblat, Marissa Nuncio, Sarah Ditty, and Santos Say Velasquez, a Los Angeles-based garment worker. Panelists discussed the importance of a holistic approach to regulating accountability in the fashion industry, particularly garment workers’ rights, and a solution that involves legislation, enforcement, advocacy, and community. Please sign the petition here, share our blog post, and join a virtual letter-writing event to get involved and support progress. In addition, brands/manufacturers/suppliers can support #SB62 by endorsing here.
Thursday, April 22: Nature
Rights of Nature Q&A: Kelly Camille Holmes of Native Max Magazine and Norma Baker-Flying Horse, native fashion designer, led a conversation on the relationship of Indengious people to the land, air, and water, highlighting traditions and stories of their peoples. They dove into the history of how the colonization of Indigenous peoples has negatively impacted their communities and erased their traditions, forcing them to assimilate away from traditional language, dress, and many elements of their cultures. As we begin to recognize the invaluable relationships with nature and the land that Indigenous peoples have always practiced, how can we center their voices as leaders in the movement and create an intersectional conversation that understands that much of the wisdom and knowledge we seek to create necessary change in the fashion industry and beyond has been othered and erased by colonizers for centuries?
Fashion Revolution Week Classroom: Regenerating Local Communities, Economies and, Environments: Fashion Revolution USA collaborated with Harvard Alumni for Fashion, Luxury, and Retail (FL&R) to create a unique classroom experience for Fashion Revolution Week. In this classroom, FL&R President Timothy Parent invited a diverse group of people, including Amy Hall, Gisselle Jimenez and Mitchell Harrison working on regenerative systems from a variety of perspectives who illustrated how we can simultaneously protect and create positive outputs for local people, economies and environments. By recognizing the intersectional solutions that exist with a regenerative framework, panelists empowered the audience to create positive outcomes for previously marginalized and exploited communities with a new vision for the fashion industry. This collaborative classroom was guided and supported with the help of Kelly Peaks (FRUSA) and Gabby Vasquez (FRUSA, The New School).
#BehindtheSeams: Four new brands joined Fashion Revolution USA for a continuation of our #BehindtheSeams series, this year debuted as Instagram Reels. Victoria Island-based Ecologyst, Detroit-based ISAIC, and Seattle-based Sassafras and Prairie Underground gave our digital audiences a behind-the-scenes look at their factories, opening up their doors by offering a transparent look at their production and process, and sharing #WhoMadeMyClothes. Many thanks to our Regional Coordinator and City Lead volunteers Alessandra Brescia, Camilla Sampson, Karen Hartman, and Olivia Gregg for bringing these features to life!
Friday, April 23: Gender
#DopeMenSew: Sewist, mens DIY designer and creator, Scorpio, of @sinsofmany joined Fashion Revolution USA for an IG Live to discuss gender roles in sewing, the #DopeMenSew community, lack of accessibility of pattern materials for men and many other subjects. “We’re programmed to think of fashion being one way,” said Scorpio, talking about the underrepresentation of men in the sewing community and lack of size inclusivity in the fashion industry. Scorpio also shed light on the powerful connections making your own clothing can foster, as well as recommended the Sew It! Academy and folks like Norris Dantá Ford, Mimi G, Michael Gardner, Prep Curry, and many others to learn from and follow. Get involved with Dope Men Sew on Instagram by using #DopeMenSew.
Fashion is a Feminist Issue: Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, consultant at Tabii Just Strategies and deputy executive director of programming at Women’s March; Tameka Peoples, founder and director of operations at Seed2Shirt; Rosalinda Cruz, founder and chief experience officer of The Asor Collective; and moderator Whitney Bauck, freelance journalist, dove into the interconnected topics of gender issues, racial equity and agricultural systems within and across fashion’s supply chains. Panelists discussed the similarities of this work to revolutionize, or rebuild, the way brands and citizens consider these many topics to the work being done in the climate justice space. Equity, land access, representation and systemic change are at the heart of what’s needed to advance women’s agency from farmer to manufacturer to end consumer, especially that of Black, Brown, Indigenous and other women of color who have been historically and systematically disenfranchised in the fashion industry.
Saturday, April 24: Action
From Collective Action to Connected Action: Unleashing Tech for Good: This Clubhouse conversation, hosted by the Humankind Action Lounge, explored various stakeholders’ experiences of navigating the abrupt stop in fashion due to the pandemic and the importance of leveraging technology and community to achieve targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moderated by Elizabeth Cabral, speakers included Jennifer Ewah, Jessica Turco, Mackenzie Mock, and Julia Perry. Together, they identified the importance of each other’s work and how collective and connected support and action are vital to driving change within the fashion industry.
Fashion Revolution Classroom: Financing Fashion: Amisha Parekh’s interactive class provided a foundational understanding of Sustainable Investment (SI) the types of SI including Exclusionary Screening, ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) Integration, and Thematic/Impact Investing, as well as defining Materiality Assessment, and how “values” (like human rights and environmental protection) are now being “valued” within investment portfolios. She explained that ESG investing has grown from $13T in 2012 to ~ $38T in 2020 and how the landscape is changing. Investors are now thinking more about long-term investments and how risk (such as an oil spill) affects a company’s value. New policies are being set in the EU to combat greenwashing and making it mandatory for public companies to disclose how they are contributing to environmental objectives. The outlook: progress is being made, especially in the EU.
Thrift Tips: Four thrifting experts–@the.thrifted.gay, @cakeplussize, @dinasdays and @thriftinginthecity_–joined Fashion Revolution USA to share a look at thrifting dos and don’ts, tuning in from Chicago, Minneapolis, Akron and Detroit respectively. Watch part one and part two of this takeover.
Sunday, April 25: Education
Around the World with Fashion Revolution: Shannon Welch, Fashion Revolution USA’s director of strategic initiatives and creative partnerships, joined Fashion Revolution for a round-robin look at the week’s events around the world. Co-presenters included Hadeel Osman, country coordinator of FR Sudan; Aigerim Akenova, country coordinator of FR Kazakhstan; Kamonnart Ongwandee, country coordinator of FR Thailand; Raina Rafie, country coordinator of FR Egypt; Salome Areais, country coordinator of FR Portugal; and Christian Stefanoni, communications lead for FR Mexico.
Made Incubator: The United State of Fashion II: The opening of The United State of Fashion II was a profound event with keynote speakers from different sectors of the fashion and beauty industry. Highlighting folks including a celebrity stylist to a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, panelists shared more about the fashion and business community’s role in addressing sustainable practices, responsible manufacturing, education gaps, economic and racial inequalities in the fashion and beauty industry, and barriers to opportunity for all. Hearing Ted Gibson and Jason Backe speak about the pain points of the beauty industry gave the audience a clear understanding of the environmental impact of the beauty and hair industry as a whole. We look forward to providing more digital knowledge and inclusion with industry stakeholders that make bold changes in this industry.
Student Ambassadors Takeover: Kelly Peaks, one of Fashion Revolution USA’s Student Ambassador Coordinators, spoke to five current ambassadors about their experiences in our student ambassador program. The conversations touched on their specific interests on issues within the fashion industry such as policy, circularity, shopping second hand, environmental issues, and more. Peaks also asked each student ambassador and the live, digital audience trivia question related to various issues surrounding the fashion industry, such as garment workers’ rights, clothing waste, and GHG emissions from clothing production. Many thanks to students Hannah Griffee, Joanne Onasi, Eva Bergloff, Ella Charnizon and Tess Stroh for participating!
This year, our Regional Coordinators, City Leads and Student Ambassadors brought the Fashion Revolution to life in new and unique ways across the United States. From clothing swaps to local sustainable clothing guides and much more, we’re thankful for the incredible work and efforts of our volunteer network to localize the brighter fashion future in their communities.
A hearty thank you to David W. Schropfer, CEO at The Safe, and DIY CyberGuy for helping facilitate a seamless virtual event experience with our sponsored Zoom account. We couldn’t have done it without you!