My eXXpedition to investigate plastic pollution in the oceans

There are three things I have been passionate about over the course of my life: sailing and the sea, the indigenous cultures of South and Central America, and creating a more sustainable fashion industry.

Working with Pachacuti, the hat brand I founded over two decades ago, and at Fashion Revolution over the past six years, has brought together the latter two areas in many ways, but now I am incredibly excited to be able to draw all three of these strands together. In February and March 2020, I will be setting sail with eXXpedition to investigate plastic pollution and toxics in our oceans. Almost 10,000 women from around the world applied to take part in the two year voyage and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been selected to crew on the leg from the Galapagos to Easter Island.

Jen Russell/eXXpedition

I learnt to sale on the magnificent J-Class yacht Velsheda in the late ’80s and spent a few summers as crew before jumping over to the square rigged brig TS Astrid on which I spent many happy months sailing the Channel and taking part in the Tall Ships Race. I then worked on various boats in the Caribbean for a year and sailed across the Atlantic on the tops’l schooner TS Unicorn.  I remember night after night on the seemingly pristine sea watching the glowing, glittering phosphorescence resulting from the bioluminescence of organisms in the surface layers of the sea (we took two months crossing the Atlantic so there were plenty of sea sparkle nights to enjoy!) I never imagined that I would be sailing the oceans again three decades later to carry out research into the degradation of the marine environment.

My Masters in Native American Studies at the University of Essex was the culmination of an interest in the Andean region which stemmed from somewhere far back in my childhood – I remember asking for a picture book about the Incas as a Christmas present one year when I was still quite young. I immersed myself in learning about indigenous cultures past and present and would have continued with my PhD on the symbolism of colour and natural dyes in the Andes. However, having set up Pachacuti in the summer holidays and seen at first hand the real difference fair trade could make to textile-producing communities in Ecuador, I decided to turn my interest in the region to more practical use.

Eleanor Church Lark Rise Pictures/eXXpedition

One of the key concepts of the Andean worldview is ayni, meaning reciprocity and balance. Balance does not mean just a static equibrium; the Inca strived for the creation of an animated cosmos through a system of continual exchange based on mutual respect, justice, and solidarity. They saw reciprocity as the foundation for peace, resilience and enduring relationships with our environment and our community both near and far. Ayni was a continuous accompaniment to life in the Andes and the foundation on which society was based. Indeed, life itself can be seen as ayni.

If the equilibrium between communities and the natural world was altered, it could result in floods, or lack of rains. Andean peoples understood that ayni has to be recreated every day in order for regeneration to take place and, as a result, knew that they needed to give things up, to make sacrifices to restore balance. Reciprocity moves people beyond self interest in order to do something for the common good.

Perhaps it is not surprising that in 2008, Ecuador became the first country to legally recognise the rights of nature and two years later Bolivia adopted the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth. This means in practice that people can now sue on behalf of the ecosystem. The Ecuadorian Constitution says this will help to “achieve the good way of living, the sumac kawsay.” Nature is part of the social fabric of life, not a resource to be exploited. The Andean concept of good living or living well doesn’t mean living better than others, nor does it imply the accumulation of material wealth. It means living well together, with nature, with mutual support, with ayni.

AnaJarc/eXXpedition

I was reminded of this whilst on holiday this summer, in a chalet by the sea on Branscombe beach in Devon. I was working there with my daughter, Sienna, and we were discussing stakeholders for Fashion Revolution’s policy dialogue toolkits. She told me that we must make sure we include stakeholders who don’t have a voice like the ocean and marine life. It seemed so obvious once she said it and I was astonished I had never previously thought of including them. This just emphasised to me how far we have become detached from seeing our world as a living being.

Reciprocity is inherent in the way the earth works, although there are limits that are difficult to reverse once they are crossed, as set out in the UN United in Science report issued on 22 September. Our activities, our pollution, our degradation of the marine environment are stressing the earth’s natural capacity for reciprocity. If we are to tackle toxics and plastic pollution in our oceans, as well as climate change, waste, and the myriad other environmental issues relating to the fashion industry, we know that every choice and every action matters. If we want to see regeneration of our waterways and oceans which are essential for living well on this planet together, we need to take co-operative responsibility. The resources of both land and sea are a gift, and this gift requires reciprocity in order to maintain healthy ecosystems.

Eleanor Church Lark Rise Pictures/eXXpedition

When I join eXXpedition and sail some 2000 miles through the Pacific Ocean, I will be taking part in groundbreaking scientific research on board this floating laboratory to help build a comprehensive picture of the state of our seas. I will also be helping to unravel how we got into this mess and how we can help shift our mindsets towards a more sustainable, a more balanced, future which encourages progress to a more regenerative system. The worldview of the peoples who inhabit the countries past which I will be sailing may well help us to find some of these solutions.

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The eXXpedition Round the World voyage, which sets sail from Plymouth, UK on October 8th 2019, will sail through some of the most important and diverse marine environments on the planet. This includes crossing four of the five oceanic gyres, where ocean plastic is known to accumulate, and the Arctic on board 73ft sailing vessel S.V. TravelEdge. Under the directorship of award winning ocean advocate Emily Penn, 300 women will join the research vessel as crew over 30 voyage legs to journey more than 38,000 nautical miles. Follow news and updates via #eXXpedition @exxpedition on Twitter / @exxpedition_ on Instagram /eXXpedition on Facebook

I am looking for sponsorship and donations towards my participation in this groundbreaking voyage. Please see more information here – I am very grateful for any support.

Carry Somers. Soles of shoes found during a 5 minute beach clean in Mexico.

Header photo: Soraya Abdel Hadi/eXXpedition

Interview with Sara Arnold: Part 4 in the Power of Influence series.

This month’s Power of Influence takes us in a bit of a different direction. On a 15 minute walk from London Euston to London Kings Cross, Fashion Revolution co-founder Orsola de Castro and renowned fashion critic and columnist Sarah Mower spoke with Sara Arnold of Extinction Rebellion (and Higher Studio) about the recent protests, the aim of the movement and the next steps in their fight for climate justice. Shortly after this interview, the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency.

A little bit of context: On Saturday April 27th, during Fashion Revolution Week and towards the end of Extinction Rebellion’s 2 week occupation of Central London, Slow Factory hosted “Study Hall: Sustainability as a Culture”. The event (in its first international edition) was held in London, UK. Before the event, the Fashion Revolution team along with Sara Arnold, Sarah Mower, speakers, attendees and supporters took a walk to discuss the current happenings.

Here’s what was said:

Orsola de Castro: So the response to the protests… people are really prepared to put themselves out there. There were over 1000 arrests you say. Did you find that the overall response was positive?

SA: There has been criticism of the tactics used, there has been criticism of disruption, but that’s not we’re worried about. We want people to hear our demands, that’s what people should be focused on. I think we are making progress on that. Everyone is talking about climate change in a different way. Talking about it as an emergency. It doesn’t matter if they don’t agree with how we’ve gone about doing things. As long as it works.

OdC: I’ve found that one of the reasons why we (Fashion Revolution) wanted to do this is the symbolism of joining hands. Even if everyone has a different way of doing things. The fact that the message is one of urgency is what we want to show. We need to all join together.

Could you tell me a little about how you guys started?

SA: Yes, so Extinction Rebellion were a group called Rising Up which started, in 2016, as a group of activists who wanted to theorise how they would go about creating this social change that we needed. They researched and put into practice different tactics. A member of Extinction Rebellion, Roger Hallam, who is currently doing his PhD at King’s College on these issues, one of the things he did was engage with an activist group at King’s that for years had been trying to get the University to disinvest from fossil fuel. They decided to stage a hunger strike. They were told that this process, even just the bureaucracy of disinvesting from fossil fuels would take a year to sort out. They said  ‘okay, so let’s just try it’. So they went on hunger strike.

Sarah Mower: Because the university was investing in fossil fuels?

SA: Exactly. The whole process, from start to finish, from them going on hunger strike to all the investment coming out was 2 weeks. When they were told it would take years. So it just goes to show that direct action makes change. People do what they think is not possible when they are faced with disaster.

OdC: When I went to the first extinction rebellion meeting, you were talking about in war and in emergency, people make things happen. So the factories go from producing kitchenware to producing arms. When it is a state of emergency, historically, we’ve known citizens and organisations to take action pretty rapidly.

SA: Exactly. Now we have to get this declaration through to them so they can act.

OdC: And so what about the involvement of Greta (Thunberg)?

SA: Greta was there when we held the Declaration of Rebellion on the 31st of October 2018. So we’ve had her support since the beginning. It’s really great that she came back at this time for the protests.

SM: She has changed everything.

OdC: She has changed everything.

OdC: You have other hubs in other countries, do you find there are other meaningful partnerships with local organisations in the rest of the world? Are you finding that people want to join you or do you find that they are hesitant to do so?

SA: The International Rebellion was in 33 countries. We have groups set up in 49 countries.

OdC: So like Fashion Revolution, you are de-centralised in the sense that it is volunteer run and people start their own groups.

SA: Yes. So we have 200 groups in the UK alone. The groups outside of the UK can have different demands to ours. They can adapt what we have done to respond to their own political situation. We’re so fortunate here to have police that are peaceful. And we have to use that privilege. We have a really engaged group in Ghana but if they did the same thing we are doing, they are looking at being arrested and then disappearing. It’s important for us to have solidarity with them. We keep a list of the names of those people so if anything does happen, we can protect them. It really interesting to get into that and see how we can help to take it further, internationally.

OdC: There are issues when you are a global group and you are dealing with law in different countries, even though the message is the same. Its important to recognise that.

OdC: How do you deal with citizens apathy out of fear? That people are so scared over what will happen, that they tend to go home and not know where to start.

SA: We need to really bring about this sense of urgency. That this is an absolute emergency. I feel its important to make people understand what the consequences are. We are talking about mass starvation, the death of billions of people if we reach a certain tipping point. Starvation is something we are really heading towards. We have 30 to 40 years left of fertile soil in this country, other countries are already hitting that. Let alone all the other problems. We are so dangerously close to hitting the tipping point.

Everyone is going to react to this differently. Everyone will go through a process of grief. And for a lot of people, grief will mean denial. That’s fine, you just have to feel compassion towards that. With extinction rebellion, what we are saying, is that when you give people the truth, a certain percent of the population, we think between 1 and 3% will rise up. And that is all we are aiming for. We need that 1 to 3% to rise up, to bring this to the governments and to take control.

OdC: And speak truth to power.

SA: Yes. We’ve been trying for the last 30 years to give people this positive message that we hope people will engage with and that great, but we don’t have time for that now.

SM: So what do you think when Greta Thunberg stands in front of Michael Gove and he acts all Mea culpa. How do we hold him to account and get through real change?

SA: It’s a difficult question.

SM: If we’re talking about footfalls and governmental change.

SA: This is stage 1 of the rebellion. We can rise up and be bigger next time if we need to. I think. As we are doing that, we are waking people up to this emergency and its not something you can turn the clock back on. I think sooner or later the government will have to act.

OdC: I thought Mary Creagh was very honest at the recent Fashion Question Time when she was saying that we cannot do 2025 but working towards 2050, hoping it will gradually get faster and easier.

‘We aren’t going to get to net zero by 2025. The science will tell us what to do to get to net zero by 2050, and then in five years’ time to 2040 and then we’ll aim to get there for 2035. We have wasted the last 10 years, we’ve had no new policy in this country to change behaviour and we’ve done some policy mistakes along the way.’ Mary Creagh, Fashion Question Time at the V&A

SA: I think that we have to hit 2025. The Arctic is melting. We could lose it in a few years. That could be the tipping point that takes us into oblivion. We have to set our targets at something that seems impossible because then we are forced to look at system change. It is not about what we can do within the existing system, we have to look beyond that and listen to the science.

OdC: The science…the science corroborates that if we did stop now, it would get worse before it gets better.

SA: That’s the thing, pollution is currently cooling the earth. We are now 1.1 degrees warmer than we were during pre-industrial times. We need to keep ourselves below 1.5 if we are to avoid the most catastrophic consequences. BUT..If we slam on the brakes right now, the pollution will clear, causing an abrupt rise in temperature. This increase has been predicted to be between 0.5 and 1.1 degrees and so we may well have already used the carbon budget associated with 1.5 degrees of global heating. And that also puts us dangerously close to tipping points that will lead us into a so called ‘hot-house earth pathway’ of runaway climate breakdown. Its predicted that we reach this tipping point at around 2 degrees of global heating. Prof. Jem Bendell released a paper, ‘Deep Adaptation’, that puts together all the science to conclude where it is we are headed. His conclusion is that the collapse of civilisation is soon and inevitable. That immense catastrophe is likely and extinction possible.

‘I have chosen to interpret the information as indicating inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction.’ – Prof. Jem Bendell, Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy

So that is why we have to think about how we are going to adapt our culture, how we can reconnect with the thought of what it means to have a fulfilled life. What is important to us? This is why we say it’s not really about providing hope to people its saying we just need the courage to get through this and do what is necessary.

OdC: If we look at precedence, historically, the last time there was a massive mobilisation was in the 60’s. I often joke that the peace sign embroidered on jeans practically stopped the Vietnam war but it essentially sparked consumerism.

SM: Its true and now that generation, who are now grandparents, see their grandchildren protesting against it. It’s something I find very moving.

Further reading: 

BBC: UK Parliament declares climate change emergency

Fashion Revolution Blog: Fashion Question Time at the V&A

The Guardian: Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth’s natural life

Open Democracy: Britain just declared a climate emergency. What happens next?

IPCC: Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC

NASA: If Earth has warmed and cooled throughout history, what makes scientists think that humans are causing global warming now?

Life Worth: Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy

The Library: Study Hall: London Central Saint Martins

Check back every month for more in the Power of Influence series. We’ll post a new entry on the last day of each month throughout 2019. If you think there is someone we should be talking to, drop us a line on instagram.


We host Fashion Revolution Week in April of every year. This year kicked off on the 22nd of April. Throughout the week we encouraged people to ask brands ‘who made my clothes’ in hopes of shining a light on the unknowns of the fashion industry. By doing this, we hope to shift the focus from consumers to brands, and to all the hands involved, be it producers, workers, farmers or otherwise. We track the reach and impact of collaborators throughout Fashion Revolution Week and use the findings to fight for change worldwide, through government and policy. We are able to do this through the generous support of people like you. Please consider donating. Thank you.

Fashion Question Time at the V&A 2019

 Tomorrowland: how innovation and sustainability will change the fashion panorama.

On Wednesday, 24th April 2019, Fashion Revolution hosted our fifth annual Fashion Question Time, a powerful platform to debate the future of the fashion industry during Fashion Revolution Week. This year Fashion Question Time was hosted for the first time at the V&A museum and opening the event up to the public for the first time. The theme this year was Tomorrowland: how innovation and sustainability will change the fashion panorama.

Chaired by Baroness Lola Young of Hornsey, this year’s panel brought together leading figures across government and the fashion industry to discuss the future of the fashion industry.

Attendees included high-level fashion industry representatives from across the sector, global brands, retailers, press, MPs, influencers, and NGOs. Panelists included Mary Creagh, MP and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee; Laura Balmond, Project Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation; Mark Sumner, Lecturer in Sustainability, Fashion & Retail, University of Leeds, and Hendrik Alpen, Sustainability Engagement Manager, H&M Group.

After a welcoming speech from Tim Peeve, an opening speech was made by Sarah Ditty, Policy Director for Fashion Revolution:

“There is an ocean of truth lying undiscovered before us when it comes to the fashion industry of tomorrow. We urgently need to focus on innovation and we need sustainability to be scaled up.”

Below we have selected some questions and answers that were discussed over the 1 hour ½ debate during Fashion Question Time 2019 at the V&A:

Olivia Shaw, Campaign Support Officer for #LoveNotLandfill and London Waste & Recycling Board asked:

“In a world with finite resources, why does the fashion industry waste around three quarters of what it creates and how are we going change this model to create a fair system for all?”

Laura Balmond, Project Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation: It’s not possible to continue as we go on… The amount of clothes produced is rapidly increasing – and we are using clothes 40% less.  Less than 1% of materials are going back into fashion we make… We need a huge systemic rethink .. I believe that the circular economy will be business-led. We need businesses to get behind this common vision… The current system doesn’t work. The leaders will continue to push ahead – will the others exist in 5 years time?

Mark Sumner, Lecturer in Sustainability, Fashion & Retail, University of Leeds: Technically there are lots of solutions but there’s no motivation… We have the opportunity to change this and legislation plays an important role. The fashion industry has been around for thousands of years. It plays an important role in self-esteem and identity, plays an important part in our lives. But we can’t stick with the model we have at the moment, we need to change. The Modern Slavery Bill is a good starting point but we need more legislation. More innovative structures in place to penalise businesses – the responsibility needs to be across the whole system.

Mary Creagh, MP and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee: The current fashion industry model promotes over consumption and under utilisation. My concern is that the policy space in this country, which has historically been a leader on these issues, has been crowded out by the Brexit psychodrama and the space for creative and necessary responses to this is being handed to us. We’re in a unique situation where the public is dragging the Government. We debated the environment twice in Parliament twice yesterday so things are changing but we all need to think about our overconsumption… We also need to strengthen regulation to require greater executive level accountability for tackling modern slavery and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in business and supply chains.

Hendrik Alpen, Sustainability Engagement Manager, H&M Group: Moving to a circular model makes business sense. Right now, H&M operates one of the biggest global take-back schemes.

 

Sarah Ditty, Fashion Revolution, Policy Director on behalf of Labour behind the Label asked:

The one safety initiative that came out of the Rana Plaza collapse, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, is at risk of being expelled from the country at the moment, putting all the progress made in the last six years at risk. At the moment over 50% of the factories still lack adequate fire alarm and detection systems and 40% are still completing structural renovations, these life-saving remediations need to be overseen by the Accord. With the Accord under threat, how can innovations in transparency create a better future for garment workers? 

Laura Balmond, Project Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation: With innovations around transparency, relies purely on the information that is inputted at the very beginning. So, this then raises the question of how do we verify that and how do we ensure the information you are receiving is correct? Therefore, what are the financial incentives to improve the system? We must incentivise accurate data inputting.

Hendrik Alpen, Sustainability Engagement Manager, H&M Group: The Accord is a very well working mechanism. So, we as a brand, and other brands hope it will continue. Last year 98% of our suppliers were compliant with the Accord’s requirements, and this year, it will be 100% compliance. You talk about incentives, so that’s a sort of incentive we can create to get something back for the work we are investing, besides, you know, it’s the right thing to do. This can also create a level playing field between brands and this is very crucial to make informed choices.

Mary Creagh, MP and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee:

The real costs of what goes into those clothes are not truly priced. We will only have change if we price clothing based on the material, the labour, and carbon emissions. Those costs are currently passed onto the countries of production… Currently, it’s down to little NGOs to police big brands. Footlocker doesn’t provide an anti-slavery statement on their website, for example… We must make accountants and CEOs accountable for slavery and emissions. Anyone with a pension fund can buy shares in a business, and as a shareholder, you can go to AGMs and to put pressure on these brands.

Sara Arnold of Extinction Rebellion asked:

To have a chance of avoiding the worst effects of the climate and ecological collapse, we must get to net zero carbon by 2025 and halt the loss of biodiversity. The mobilisation we need is unprecedented and as an industry, we should be declaring climate and ecological emergency and acting as so. If this was treated as the emergency that it is, would there be any place for fast fashion? Would there be a place for fashion at all?

 

Hendrik Alpen, Sustainability Engagement Manager, H&M Group: Obviously, it is hard to say we shouldn’t exist! But I can relate to the thoughts. So, our job is to reduce the impact of what we do. So that’s why we set the goal to be climate positive by 2040, that may be too late, but we are discussing timelines. We have made changes across our stores, and office to be powered by renewable electricity. So, the challenge we have is how do we bring that into the supply chain? And our first goal is to have a climate neutral supply chain by 2030. That’s a huge challenge, we don’t know how to do that, but that’s the challenge we are taking on and we have to take on. Then the question is how can we continue to operate with such a business model which still brings fashion to the people but how do we do that in a better way? Our business model is based on selling products and it still will be for a while and on the other hand, that means jobs for people, joy for people but we need to find a different way.

Laura Balmond, Project Manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation:

Think of the global population, what do people want, what do people need. Firstly, we need clothes, but then we have a prospect of fashion. Fashion is creative and meets a variety of needs of the people. So you’ve got on the one hand, Instagram bloggers who wear many different outfits and that’s how they’ve learnt to operate. And that’s okay, we don’t want to stifle creativity or fun. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got the guy that’s had his pair of Levi’s and loves them and doesn’t want them to ever wear out and he’s set for life. So how can the fashion industry rise to the challenge of meeting both these needs and still continue to exist? This can lead to interesting things coming out of this, for instance, an organisation that curates a digital wardrobe, so why do they necessarily need to own clothes at all…This is the end where rental models, swapping will be the way to keep clothes in use for as long as possible, just not with the same person. Then, on the other hand, we need to create well made, durable and repairable clothing. And that’s the challenge for the fashion industry: how can it rise to better meet the needs of the consumers?

Mark Sumner, Lecturer in Sustainability, Fashion & Retail, University of Leeds:

We’ve got 11 years to solve climate change, and I suspect it’s going to be less than that. So I agree, that it’s not fast enough. But I think you need to understand that its systemic part of culture and the part that the fashion industry plays in it. Fashion plays a really important role in our lives, for self-esteem, identity, it’s about projecting our position in society. It a really important part of our lives… I think it’s really interesting when people talk about fast and slow fashion, I go around fabric mills and garment factories, you can see excellent best practice happening in fast fashion supply chain and at the same time, around the corner you see absolutely diabolical conditions in factories supplying to luxury brands, sometimes run by the mafia. So, to think that luxury, fast fashion and slow fashion are different concepts is false. I think what we need to be looking at is brands and retailers that are doing good things, H&M, for example, are trying lots of different models, they haven’t got the answers yet but at least they are trying. Some brands out there don’t even know they have to ask the question about climate change, it’s not on their agenda at all. Those organisations are the ones we really need to metaphorically give them a kick. Different business models need to be developed but that does require significant change, so it’s also about changing the way we behave.

Mary Creagh, MP and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee:

Thank you [to Extinction Rebellion] for creating the operating space for MP’s like me, who have always been a bit of a lonely voice, to become normalised.

But also, while there is a climate emergency, there’s also a social emergency on hand. And we need to tackle both of these things together. And switching to a low-carbon economy, we have to make it adjust transitionally, we have to make sure we don’t create winners and losers, so that fashion shouldn’t just become something for rich people to enjoy. So, when we look at how we are going to transition, we have got problems with our transport, in agriculture and the way we fuel our homes. So those are the three policy challenges for government. Had we moved from our over-consuming society very quickly, we aren’t going to get to net zero by 2025. The science will tell us what to do to get to net zero by 2050, and then in five years’ time to 2040 and then we’ll aim to get there for 2035. We have wasted the last 10 years, we’ve had no new policy in this country to change behaviour and we’ve done some policy mistakes along the way. I think fashion needs to set out it’s roadmap to net zero. It needs to say how we get to net zero and the target needs to be legally enforceable and not just voluntary.

Dr Mark Sumner, Lecturer in Sustainability, Fashion & Retail, University of Leeds:

This isn’t just about fashion, it’s a culture of consumption. There are brands doing good stuff who are being lambasted by the press and the ones that aren’t doing anything are slipping into the shadows.

 

Closing Fashion Question Time 2019, Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, made a powerful closing speech:

“There is absolutely no excuse anymore. We all have to do what is required of us as people, people working in companies, in governments, in education, in the media, and at home. We have to fight the system and we have to fight our lifestyle. We can’t do this without information and we can’t access verifiable, comparable and understandable information without transparency and public disclosure… We have to move from a culture of exploitation to one of appreciation and place respect for resources and for each other before every deed and every process.”

The other questions asked were:

Antonio Roade, Senior CSR Manager, New Look asked:

Technology will be vital to transition towards a circular economy; and we keep on seeing big companies investing millions collaborating with different research institutions; in different areas and often with no clear outputs. How do we coordinate different initiatives and who should be taking the lead on this (research institutions, governments or brands)?

Elle L, Artist, Expert Advisor in Fashion and Media to United Nations Environment Programme asked:

As we know, fast fashion uses a lot of synthetics which we in the room and the government now know to be highly toxic and damaging to the environment — do you think that a tax can and should be implemented to minimise or how do we phase out the amount of synthetics produced?

Julie Hill, Chair of WRAP asked:

What are the best tools to drive resource efficiency and transparency in the fashion supply chain?

Jennifer Eweh, Designer and Entrepreneur, Eden Diodati asked:

What are the opportunities and challenges involved with automation, blockchain, and artificial intelligence being used within the fashion supply chain?

Siobhan Wilson, Owner, The Fair Shop asked:

Small business and organisations have been driving change in communities across the country and beyond in making, repairing, reinventing and reusing. How can these businesses be nurtured and supported more here in the UK, so they can flourish at a greater scale and gain further exposure to a mainstream fashion audience?

Jasmine Hemsley, Cook, Author and wellness expert, asked:

What will our future look like without sustainable fashion being commonplace?

A very special thank you to the Edwina Ehrman for opening the V&A to Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Question Time and to the rest of the V&A team for your efforts in making this event a success. And a thank you to Sienna Somers and the rest of the Fashion Revolution team for organising this event.

All images Copyright Rachel Manns / www.rachelmanns.com / @rachel_manns / Rachel Manns is an internationally commissioned freelance photographer based in London, UK. She has spent the last decade shooting for a range of clients all over the world. She has a strong passion for sustainability and human rights. With fierce ethical values and a beautiful visual style, Rachel’s work perfectly intertwines the two. Her aim is to use her camera to aid positive change globally, whether that’s politically or commercially, whilst never compromising on aesthetic. Get in contact for rates.

 

Transparency is trending

An increasing number of fashion brands and retailers are publicly disclosing their manufacturers and suppliers. As of April 2019, we have counted 181 Brands across 75 companies/parent groups that are publishing supplier lists, where at least some of their products are made.

 

Why should brands publish supplier lists?

Publishing supplier lists are important because it helps NGOs, unions, local communities and even workers themselves to alert brands of any potential human rights and environmental issues in their supply chains. This sort of transparency makes it easier for the relevant parties to understand what went wrong, who is responsible and how to fix it. It also helps consumers better understand #whomademyclothes. For more information on why transparency matters, please read the latest Fashion Transparency Index.

When we published the first edition of the Fashion Transparency Index with Ethical Consumer magazine in April 2016, we looked at 40 leading global fashion brands and found that only 5 brands (Adidas, Converse, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co and H&M) published a list of their manufacturers and only 2 (Adidas and H&M) published the names and addresses of sub-contractors or processing facilities.

Out of the 200 brands included the Fashion Transparency Index 2019, 70 major brands (35%) are publishing a list of their factories at the first tier, where clothes are typically cut, sewn and trimmed. This is up from 32% of 150 major brands in 2017 and 12.5% of 40 major brands in 2016.

Out of the 200 brands, we discovered that just 38 brands (19%) are publishing their processing facilities, where clothes undergo dyeing, printing, finishing and laundering – up from only 14% of the brands in 2017.

10 brands (5%) are now disclosing some of the facilities or farms supplying their fibres such as viscose, cotton and wool. This is a significant increase from 2018 where only one brand disclosed this information and no brands shared this information in 2017 or 2016.

We have looked at brands beyond the Fashion Transparency Index to count the number that are publishing lists of their suppliers. Below you will find 181 brands (over £36 million annual turnover) that are publishing lists of their manufacturers and/or suppliers. This list is not exhaustive; if you are aware of other brands that are publishing their suppliers, please let us know at transparency@fashionrevolution.org.

The information they provide varies widely. Some publish every factory where their clothes are manufactured. Others may only reveal a selected portion of their manufacturers, such as their high-volume or long-term suppliers, factories located just in one country or only the factories that the company owns and directly operates.

Some brands will publish very basic information — just a name and country  — whereas others will disclose more detailed information such as the factory’s address, number of workers, types of products the factory makes, the gender breakdown of the workers in the factory, and so on. There is no standard format for disclosure. However, we believe brands should be disclosing more than just a name and country. We will be pushing brands to provide a greater level of detail in their supplier lists, and you can encourage them to do so too. Check out the new Get Involved packs for ideas on how to influence brands to be more transparent about their suppliers.

 

Brands who publish supplier lists (tier one only):

& Other Stories (H&M group)
Abercrombie & Fitch
Adidas
ALDI-Nord
ALDI SOUTH

Ann Taylor
ARROW (PVH)
ASICS
ASOS
Athleta (GAP Inc.)
Autograph (Speciality Fashion Group)
Banana Republic (GAP Inc.)
Berghaus (Pentland Brands)
Berlei (Hanes)
BESTSELLER
BigW (Woolsworth Group)
Black Pepper (PAS Group)
Bon Prix
Bonds (Hanes)
Boxfresh (Pentland Brands)
Brand Collective
Brooks Sports
Burton (Arcadia)
C&A
Calvin Klein (PVH)
Champion (Hanes)
Cheap Monday (H&M group)
City Chic (Speciality Fashion Group)
Clarks
Cole’s (Wesfarmers Group)
Columbia Sportswear Co.
Converse (NIKE, Inc)
Cos (H&M group)
Cotton:On
Crossroads (Speciality Fashion Group)
Curvation (Fruit of the Loom, Inc.)
David Jones
Debenhams
Designworks (PAS Group)
Disney
Dorothy Perkins (Arcadia)
Dressmann
Eagle Creek (VF Corporation)
Eastpak (VF Corporation)
Ellesse (Pentland Brands)
Esprit
Evans (Arcadia)
Factorie (Cotton On Group)
Fjällräven
Forever New 
Fruit of the Loom
G-Star
Galeria Inno (HBC)
Galeria Kaufhof (HBC)
Gap
George at Asda (Walmart)
Gildan 
H&M
Hanes
Hermès
Holeproof Explorer (Hanes)
Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC)
HUGO BOSS
Hurley (NIKE, Inc)
Intermix (GAP Inc.)
IZOD (PVH)
JACK&JONES (BESTSELLER)
Jack Wolfskin
Jacqueline de Yong (BESTSELLER)
JAG (APG & Co)
Jansport (VF Corporation)
Jeanswest
JETS Swimwear (PAS Group)
Jockey (Hanes)
John Lewis
Joe Fresh (Loblaw Companies Limited)
Jordan (NIKE, Inc)
Junarose (BESTSELLER)
KangaROOS (Pentland Brands)
Kathmandu
Katies (Speciality Fashion Group)
Kaufland
Kayser (Hanes)
Kipling (VF Corporation)
Kmart Australia (Wesfarmers Group)
Lee (VF Corporation)
Levi Strauss & Co.
Lidl
Lindex

Littlewoods (Shop Direct)
Loblaw
Loft (Ascena)
Lord & Taylor (HBC)
lucy (VF Corporation)
Lululemon
Majestic (VF Corporation)
Mamalicious (BESTSELLER)
Mammut
Marco Polo (PAS Group)
Marimekko
Marks & Spencer
Matalan

MEC
Millers (Speciality Fashion Group)
Miss Selfridge (Arcadia)
Mizuno
Monki (H&M group)
Name It (BESTSELLER)
Napapijiri (VF Corporation)
Nautica (VF Corporation)
New Balance
New Look
Next
Nike
Noisy May (BESTSELLER)
Old Navy (GAP Inc.)
Only (BESTSELLER)
Only & Sons (BESTSELLER)
Outerknown (Kering Group)
Outfit (Arcadia)
Patagonia
Pieces (BESTSELLER)
Pimkie
Playtex (Hanes)
Primark
Prisma (S Group)

Puma
R.M Williams
Razzamatazz (Hanes)
Red or Dead (Pentland Brands)
Reebok (Adidas Group)
Reef (VF Corporation)
Review (PAS Group)
Rider’s by Lee (VF Corporation)
Rio (Hanes)
Rivers (Speciality Fashion Group)
Rock & Republic (VF Corporation)
rubi (Cotton On Group)
Russell Athletic (Fruit of the Loom, Inc.)
Sainsbury’s – Tu Clothing
Saba (APG & Co.)
Sak’s Fifth Avenue (HBC)
Selected (BESTSELLER)
Sheer Relief (Hanes)
Sisley (Benetton Group)
Smartwool (VF Corporation)
SPALDING (Fruit of the Loom, Inc.)
Speedo (Pentland Brands)
Sportscraft (APG & Co.)
Supré (Cotton On Group)
Target
Target Australia (Wesfarmers Group)
Tchibo
Tesco
The North Face (VF Corporation)
Timberland (VF Corporation)
Tommy Hilfiger (PVH)
Topman (Arcadia)
Topshop (Arcadia)
Under Armour
Uniqlo (Fast Retailing)
United Colours of Benetton (Benetton Group)
Van Heusen (PVH)
Vanity Fair Lingerie (Fruit of the Loom, Inc.)
Vans (VF Corporation)
Vassarette (Hanes)
Vero Moda (BESTSELLER)
Very (Shop Direct)
Victoria’s Secret (L Brands)

Vila Clothes (BESTSELLER)
Voodoo (Hanes)
Wallis (Arcadia)
Warner’s (PVH)
Weekday (H&M group)
White Runway (PAS Group)
Wrangler (VF Corporation)
Yarra Trail (PAS Group)
Y.A.S. (BESTSELLER)

Total: 181

 

Brands who publish processing facilities list:

Adidas
ASOS
Banana Republic (GAP Inc.)
Bershka (Inditex)
Bon Prix
C&A
Champion (Hanes)
Converse (NIKE, Inc)
Esprit
Gap
Gildan 
G-Star RAW
H&M
Hanes
Hermès
Jordan (NIKE, Inc)
Levi Strauss & Co.
Lindex
Massimo Dutti (Inditex)
New Balance
Nike (Nike, Inc.)
Old Navy (GAP Inc.)
Patagonia
Pull & Bear (Inditex)
Puma
Reebok (Adidas Group)
Russell Athletic (Fruit of the Loom, Inc.)
Stradivarius (Inditex)
Target
Tchibo
Tesco
The North Face (VF Corporation)
Timberland (VF Corporation)
Uniqlo (Fast Retailing)
United Colours of Benetton (Benetton Group)
Vans (VF Corporation)
Wrangler (VF Corporation)
Zara (Inditex)

Total: 38

 

Brands who publish raw materials supplier list:

ASOS
C&A
Esprit
Lululemon
Marks & Spencer
Patagonia
The North Face (VF Corporation)
Timberland (VF Corporation)
Vans (VF Corporation)
Wrangler (VF Corporation)

Total: 10

 

 

Please note: We are not endorsing the brands included in this list; this is not a ‘seal of approval.’ While publishing supplier lists is a necessary step towards greater transparency and improved conditions in fashion supply chains, it does not guarantee ethical business practices. However, we hope you find this list informative and continue to ask brands #whomademyclothes.

Interview with Mutha: Part 3 in the Power of Influence series.

Sparked by the buzz around HRH Meghan Markle choosing to shop amongst sustainable brands (yay), we found ourselves interested in learning more about the conscious and subconscious effect of social influencers and how that can shape our buying habits. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing our ‘Power of Influence’ series, talking to people within the fashion and social media realms about how they are using their platform for positive action. In this post, we celebrate Mutha.

Mutha are my favourite new source for all things sustainability. They not only have great fashion related content but they also delve in to other areas such as food, tech, sport and feminism. Their youtube channel is hosted by an insanely engaging team of presenters and their #relatable language and design aesthetic is something to be envious of. Current faves in their playlists include ‘Zero Waste Man‘ and ‘Black Friday Madness‘. To find out more about how it all happens, I chatted to Susan Adegboye, Mutha’s social media coordinator.
 

 

What is Mutha and how did it start?
So Mutha stemmed from wanting to celebrate the individuals and organisations operating in the world of food, fashion, travel and sport that are making a conscious effort to look after this planet of ours. We wanted to create a platform dedicated to the forward thinkers that were shifting the dial for a sustainable future, highlighting the importance of looking after the planet but without the scaremonger tactics. 

We partnered with the UN to be the bridge between them and Gen Z. Both sides care about the planet, but we felt that the way that information around sustainability and the environment was being portrayed hasn’t always resonated with a younger audience.

Can you explain a little about the kind of content Mutha is creating to bridge that gap?
We tried to bridge that gap by including communities and groups that have previously never really been involved. A good example of this is SpAir Max Day, where we decided to tap into the sneaker community.

Coinciding with Nike Air Max Day on March 26th, we filmed a two-part series with renowned sneaker head Kish Kash, encouraging the sneaker community and a few household names such as Annie Mac, Clara Amfo and Leo Greenslade, to look into their vaults and donate some of their used, worn-in and probably landfill destined kicks to launch the first ever pop up sneaker shop where customers donate instead of buy. With the aim of collecting 1000 pairs of Air Max, cleaned by the team at Jason Markk and donated to the Brixton Soup Kitchen clothing and shoe bank.

We wanted to show the Mutha audience that upcycling and donating our used clothing and shoes not only has a positive impact on the environment, but that it can help people in our community in need. We wanted to work with the sneaker community to show how they can come together to do something good.

 

 

I think thats a really interesting point – including communities that haven’t previously been part of the conversation. At this point, it feels like there is something everyone can do to play their part.
Exactly!

One of Muthas instagram post states ‘you don’t have to be perfect, just do your best’. Do you think there is a tendency to shame when it comes to issues of sustainability?
Nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes, we’re human after all. It’s about what we do after the mistakes that really matters.

On that note, the team of presenters on Mutha feels very natural, honest, like they are part of the communities they interact with and they are experiencing the challenges and issues at the same time the audience are. Was it a conscious decision to work in this way?
Our presenters and the rest of the Mutha team, do not want to preach, but rather learn and share to inspire positive change. They represent the team behind the scenes who create the content and more importantly the audience who watch it. Our presenters come from varied backgrounds and have passions in totally different areas, but are all connected in the quest to learn and to live in a more sustainable way.

Thats definitely something that personally resonated with me when I first came across Mutha. It’s an inviting atmosphere. You sympathise and relate to the faces and voices you see and hear. Have you seen a positive reaction to this approach? Do your audience get it? Are they realising what they can do?
Ah we’re happy to hear that! At Mutha we believe that change has to start from within, we’re all on a journey here and in the 9 months since we started it we’ve all seen changes in ourselves and in our habits. The world of sustainability is often filled with doom and gloom, but a lot of us feel more optimistic now than we did before we started this journey. All the people that we’ve featured on our channel (and most of the feedback that we’ve received from our audience) is that Mutha feels like a celebration and inspires us to take the small actions that lead to big change.

 

So what does the future of Mutha look like?
The future of Mutha looks bigger and better, creating a lasting impact on an even wider scale. We hope that we can continue to provide a place where people can learn about sustainability and appreciating the world that we live in.

Thanks, Susan!

To keep up to date with all things Mutha, you can follow them on instagram and subscribe to their youtube channel. The second part of their two part SpAir Max Day initiative launched April 4th – see the video here.

Check back every month for more in the Power of Influence series. We’ll post a new entry on the last day of each month throughout 2019. If you think there is someone we should be talking to, drop us a line on instagram.


We host Fashion Revolution Week in April of every year. This year kicks off on the 22nd of April. Throughout the week we encourage people to ask brands ‘who made my clothes’ in hopes of shining a light on the unknowns of the fashion industry. By doing this, we hope to shift the focus from consumers to brands, and to all the hands involved, be it producers, workers, farmers or otherwise. We track the reach and impact of collaborators throughout Fashion Revolution Week and use the findings to fight for change worldwide, through government and policy. We would hugely appreciate it if you would be willing to share a story or celebrate a brand you love or simply ask #whomademyclothes during Fashion Revolution Week in 2019.

Does Your Feminist T-Shirt Empower The Women Who Made It?

Photo: Shilpi Rani Das started working in a garment factory when she was 12 years old and moved to work at Rana Plaza at 13. She was working on the 8th floor at the time of the factory collapse. She lost an arm and spent the next 2 1/2 years in hospital. She is now at school, plays badminton and supports her family by sending money home. She is starting Open University.

 

The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter and asks how we can help forge a more gender-balanced world. Brands and retailers are, predictably, all doing their bit to show support, from Pretty Little Thing’s promotion of their #EveryBodyInPLT movement with T-shirts from £10, with profits going to the charity WAGGGS to Net-a-Porter’s limited edition collection in collaboration with six female designers, with profits going to Women for Women International.

None of the webpages about the T-shirts feature any information about how or where they are made or who made them. About 75 million people work directly in the fashion and textiles industry and about 80% of them are women. Many are subject to exploitation and verbal and physical abuse. They are often working in unsafe conditions, with very little pay.

Actress Aisling Bea tweeted during Fashion Revolution Week last year: “My particular bugbear is feminist tees which were not made by women who were paid fairly for their labour. Check your tags and brands.”

Slogan T-shirts with female empowerment messages will be everywhere this week to coincide with International Women’s Day, but the reality is that the fashion industry doesn’t empower the majority of women who work in it. Gender-based inequality remains a problem throughout the industry, from the highest levels of management to the shop floor and the factory floor. We still have a very long way to go until everyone who makes our clothes can live and work with dignity, in healthy conditions and without fear of losing their life.

One of the main projects Fashion Revolution worked on in 2017/18 was the Garment Worker Diaries. On-the-ground research partners met with 540 garment workers in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh on a weekly basis for twelve months to learn the intimate details of their lives. 60% reported gender-based discrimination, over 15% reported being threatened and 5% had been hit. When I met with the President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association in November 2017, he told me categorically that sexual harassment doesn’t exist in garment factories in Bangladesh. One statistic I found particularly shocking was that 40% of the workers surveyed had seen a fire in their place of work. The women making our clothes are still risking their lives every day for our fashion fix.

 

In January, The Guardian revealed that Spice Girls T-shirts raising money for Comic Relief’s Gender Justice campaign were being made at a factory in Bangladesh where women earned 35p an hour and claimed to be verbally abused and harassed. Garment production in Bangladesh is still carried out in a very opaque manner and the lack of information about where our clothes and shoes are made and who made them is a huge barrier to changing the fashion industry. This means that gender inequality and human rights abuses and remain rife. If you can’t see it, you can’t fix it, which is why Fashion Revolution urges all brands and retailers to have full supply chain transparency, and we track this through our annual Fashion Transparency Index.

Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index 2018 which reviews and ranks 150 major global brands and retailers according to their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts, throws a spotlight on how brands and retailers are tackling gender-based discrimination and violence in supply chains. The report specifically looks at how they are supporting gender equality and promoting female empowerment, both in their own company and in the supply chain.

Whilst, most brands publish policies on discrimination, harassment and abuse, the research show that only 37% of brands are publishing human rights goals. Without reporting on goals and, importantly, annual progress towards these goals, consumers have no way of knowing whether their clothing purchases are really helping to drive improvements for the women who are making their clothes.

Only 40% of brands and retailers reported on capacity building projects in the supply chain that are focused on gender equality or female empowerment, while just 13% publish detailed supplier guidance on issues facing female workers in their Supplier Codes of Conduct. Only 37 out of the 150 brands surveyed report signing up to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, an initiative by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, or publishing the company’s overall strategy and quantitative goals to advance women’s empowerment. Meanwhile, just 5% of brands are disclosing any data on the prevalence of gender-based labour violations in supplier facilities, such as sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence, or the treatment and firing of pregnant workers.

In the 2019 Fashion Transparency Index, to be published in April, we will be surveying 200 brands and asking the same questions around women’s empowerment. Women’s economic empowerment and closing gender gaps at work is key to realising women’s rights and central to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular SDG 8 on promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

According to the BoF McKinsey & Company report The State of Fashion 2019 “Younger generations’ passion for social and environmental causes has reached critical mass, causing brands to become more fundamentally purpose driven to attract both consumers and talent”. As a result, the appearance of the word “feminist” on retailer homepages and newsletters is forecast to increase in frequency sixfold compared to two years ago. Brands are adopting feel-good feminist slogans, yet the rise of real feminism and female empowerment within the industry is a long way off for most women who work in it, from the highest levels of management to the shop floor and the factory floor.

If we really want to see a more gender balanced world, brands and retailers need to do more than sell empowering T-shirts; they need to make sure their policies are put into practice. And not just in the visible places, on fashion shoots or within their company, but at every level of their supply chains. The people making our clothes may not be visible, but every garment they make has a silent #MeToo woven into its seams. At Fashion Revolution, we believe positive change in the fashion industry is possible, and it starts with transparency.

 

Interview with Ashley (bestdressed): Part 2 in the Power of Influence series.

Sparked by the buzz around HRH Megan Markle choosing to shop amongst sustainable brands (yay), we found ourselves interested in learning more about the conscious and subconscious effect of social influencers and how that can shape our buying habits. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing our ‘Power of Influence’ series, talking to people within the fashion and social media realms about how they are using their platform for positive action. In this post, we talk to Ashley AKA bestdressed.

There is something different about Ashley’s videos. There is no big agenda, no preaching or bragging, no shaming when she talks about clothes. There is just this subtle little undercurrent of care and attention in the way she approaches her wardrobe. Thrifting, flipping (making new things out of old things) and the occasional scattering of self-deprecating humour makes for some exceedingly entertaining videos. Being an avid fixer and flipper myself, I wondered what made Ashley start working in this way and what effect, if any, she thinks it has on her audience.

 

Could you share your name and various media handles:
Ashley (aka bestdressed)
Youtube: bestdressed
Instagram: @best.dressed

Upon first glance, your youtube channel might seem like many others – OOTDs, clothing hauls and ‘day in the life of’s. When digging in though, your approach to sustainability through thrifting, upcycling and flipping your finds is totally ingrained into everything you do and say. For us, this is such an important and positive message to be spreading, something that others on the platform can seem to ignore. What made you start working in this way? Was sustainable fashion something you’ve always been conscious of?
I’m flattered, but honestly I never made a conscious choice to be a ~hero~ of sustainability! My love of thrifting and tendency to rewear clothes really comes from a financial perspective. When I was a younger, I never liked thrifting, My sister would always find gems, but I’d get bored and frustrated 15 ugly sweaters in and go play Doodle Jump in a corner. But two summers ago, when was in full on chipmunk mode post-wisdom teeth removal, I needed something to pass the time before my cheeks deflated. Lo and behold, I decided to go thrifting, and finally found some cool stuff. From that point on, I was obsessed – mostly because at that point I was still working for $8 an hour at an ice cream shop and could use the cheapest clothes I could get. Plus, I was about a year into my (vastly unsuccessful at that point) YouTube career. I would post a haul or OOTW here and there, but I could never seem to keep up with other girls who would have five completely new outfits each week. Thrifting, for me, was a way to experiment with my style and make interesting content, and rewearing clothes for years (even “fast fashion” clothes from Forever21) was just a product of not having that much money.

In a lot of your videos you alter, adjust, flip your existing clothes (or second hand clothes) into something totally new. Do you think it’s something everyone could and should be doing? Does this satisfy the itch to own something new, without playing into the fast-fashion world?
For me, it’s even better! It’s like Marx’s theory of alienation from the work product, right? There’s something so satisfying about making or altering something yourself. Every time you look at it or wear it you get to be like “Damn! I did that! And nobody else has anything like it!” I know everyone’s not the craftiest or has time to alter their clothes, but I hope I can encourage people to at least give it a try! Something as simple as patching up a hole instead of throwing a shirt out, or cropping an old t-shirt are a great place to start!

 

 

Do you feel the pressure from brands to buy? Do you think it’s possible to stay fashionable without buying in excess?
Absolutely. That’s the whole job of the marketing industry. And now social media is overtaken by the marketing industry. So every day, tons of images and videos are telling you that you want new things. Honestly I fall victim to this too. It’s usually only when I’m bored or procrastinating or feeling shitty, but I’ll go into this fervor of opening tabs and adding items to my cart. Normally the total price at checkout stops me though, haha. I don’t go to malls anymore because they make me crazy. Literally my brain just goes: clothes! clothes! more clothes! I sound insane but I swear this probably happens to a lot of us. Luckily, a lot of what’s “fashionable,” at least for a certain segment of internet hipsters, is shifting towards thrifted and vintage clothes. I love that it’s cool now to wear an old oversize t-shirt or a vintage linen dress. Since my entire job revolves around fashion, I do still buy new clothes, but I always think about my purchases thoughtfully and try to mix in thrifted, vintage, sustainable, and altered clothes.

Do you see an uptake in responsibility from your followers when you share content that focuses on sustainable issues? Do their responses show that they’re thinking differently about what they buy and how they buy?
Honestly unfortunately I think it’s a bit of singing to the choir when it comes to sustainable vs. fast fashion. There are still crazy amounts of $300, $500, $5000 Wish/Zaful/Shein hauls online, with audiences willing to watch. I’m chillin over here in my corner of the internet with gals who already love thrifting. And who’s reading this article? Surely people who already care about sustainable fashion. Perhaps that’s just me being a bit of a pessimist. In the long run, I think sustainable content can change how people think, but it takes time. I hope that at least some people who have subscribed to my channel from a fashion video have found their way to a thrift haul, and after watching a couple, have tried thrifting on their own! And maybe my thrift flips makes fellow sewing nerds like me feel a little cooler lol.

Okay now for some quick ones…

  1. Current favourite piece in your closet?
    A sherpa jacket I thrifted from the men’s section! So cozy and looks like it cost a fortune
  2. Do you remember the first piece of clothing that you ever bought for yourself?
    A gray American Eagle hoodie in 6th grade
  3. Do you still have it?
    I wore it nearly every day to school for 3 years (I was one of those kids) but we had to part ways after it was pretty much falling apart.
  4. Do you know who made the clothes you are currently wearing?
    My top is thrifted (so not sure who made it originally) and my jeans are Redone vintage Levi’s made in the US.
  5. Top tip for others wishing to shop more responsibly?
    Start with browsing a vintage or thrift store, finding a few quality sustainable pieces to invest in, looking through your own closet to find old gems you forgot you loved… or even remembering to return items you don’t end up loving – that’s a huge one! It’s so easy, you get your money back, and you don’t end up with clothing sitting in the back of your closet. You’d be amazed by how many people buy stuff and can’t be bothered to return it. I think sustainable culture can be a bit intimidating and make you feel guilty for your past purchases or if you aren’t perfectly sustainable at the start. It’s all about starting small – even if you just stop and think about one fast fashion purchase per month, that’s still awesome!

Thanks, Ashley 🙂

Check back every month for more in the Power of Influence series. We’ll post a new entry on the last day of each month throughout 2019. If you think there is someone we should be talking to, drop us a line on instagram.


We host Fashion Revolution Week in April of every year. This year kicks off on the 22nd of April. Throughout the week we encourage people to ask brands ‘who made my clothes’ in hopes of shining a light on the unknowns of the fashion industry. By doing this, we hope to shift the focus from consumers to brands, and to all the hands involved, be it producers, workers, farmers or otherwise. We track the reach and impact of collaborators throughout Fashion Revolution Week and use the findings to fight for change worldwide, through government and policy. We would hugely appreciate it if you would be willing to share a story or celebrate a brand you love or simply ask #whomademyclothes during Fashion Revolution Week in 2019.

Interview with Arden Rose: Part 1 in the Power of Influence series.

Sparked by the buzz around HRH Megan Markle choosing to shop amongst sustainable brands (yay), we found ourselves interested in learning more about the conscious and subconscious effect of social influencers and how that can shape our buying habits. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing our ‘Power of Influence’ series, talking to people within the fashion and social media realms about how they are using their platform for positive action. First up is Arden Rose.

Illustration by Nyree Waters

I was recommended Arden’s youtube channel by Youtube itself (thanks algorithms). Finding a funny, interesting AND socially, environmentally conscious human who also creates entertaining content is pretty rare, right? Exactly. I was hooked right away, and with 1.4 million youtube subscribers and coming up to 900k followers on instagram, I wasn’t the only one. My first point of call was watching the fantastically titled ”how to NOT destroy the planet while shopping“. There were many questions I wanted to ask, much admiration I wanted to share. So…after a quick binge of other videos, and a swift click of the subscribe button, Arden became the first in this series of interviews. Her answers didn’t disappoint. Read on, read on…

To start, could you share your name and various media handles:
@ardenrose on everything!!

In a community of hauls, where buying in excess and presenting that image to the world is commonplace, you choose to do differently. We think that’s totally awesome and also pretty brave. Was it hard for you to step away from the established way of working and suggest a different way of doing things?
It was hard in the sense that hauls tend to do well on YouTube and they’re easy (i.e. unoriginal) content to make. Honestly, buying that much junk was tiring, it filled up my closet with trendy pieces I don’t want in a month, and it was boring to make. I’m so much happier to share clothing that I had to hunt or search for to make it sustainable and worth showing on my channel! Honestly, everyone should give themselves the challenge of not relying on constantly selling their audience on cheap slave labor. Definitely helps me sleep (slightly) better at night.

Your video ‘how to NOT destroy the planet while shopping’ is SO well informed and honest and great. You mention other youtubers who inspired your choices. Do you think more people on the platform need to be addressing these issues?
ABSOLUTELY. It shocks me that people can just turn a blind eye to the obvious pain they allow corporations to get away with or ignorantly support. Everyone should be promoting sustainable business practices, especially the women on the internet that tend to to push fast fashion as a “cheap” and “easy” alternative to a constantly refreshing industry like the fashion industry. Viewers should be educated, but at the very least the entertainers who are preaching to them should be educated.

 

 

Have you always been a conscious consumer or was there a moment when the switch flipped and you started to think more about the way you buy?
I touch on this briefly in my “how to NOT destroy the planet while shopping” video, but I used to make H&M and Forever21 hauls allllll the time. Constantly. My channel was filled with that shit. Fortunately I sat down and watched all the necessary documentaries and read all of the articles late last year and completely got my stupid self educated on the issue. Honestly, I always KNEW that fast fashion was bad business, but I was wilfully ignorant so that I didn’t have to give up my shopping addiction that felt baked into my personality.

 

 

Do you see an uptake in responsibility from your followers when you share content that focuses on sustainable issues? Do their responses show that they’re thinking differently about what they buy and how they buy?
Yes!! And that’s what’s so amazing to me! I don’t even have the largest audience but I get hundreds of comments about my sustainability video a week. I didn’t even think that many people saw it! Nowadays, consumers want to be in the know, and they want clear consciences. Having a friend on the internet (me!) sitting you down and calling you out on the way you’ve been spending your money is helpful and doesn’t feel accusatory! It feels like friendly advice which is important. A lot of people get turned off of the sustainability conversation because it sounds preachy. You need to be a friend to these people, not a holier than thou asshole. I like to think I’ve helped a lot of young women and men rethink their spending habits when it comes to fashion, but I also think it’s just the power of a younger generation that actually cares about others and the planet! They’re awesome and so fired up for change!

 

Comments on Arden’s ‘how to NOT destroy the planet while shopping’ video.

 

Do you think it is easy to find and share information about the sustainability of fashion brands and the effects of fast fashion on people and planet? Is there anything you can think of that would help make it easier to do so?
It is easy if you want to find it. It would be easier if large publications and fashion houses made it a priority to promote the message. It doesn’t benefit the industry to reveal its ugly underbelly, so they try to hide it, or dangle a carrot in your face via a “sustainable line” that only happens once in a blue moon. If there was a grassroots coalition of the top fashion bloggers and instagram baddies calling these companies out and only promoting sustainable brands, I can bet you big money things would shift in a major way.

Okay now for some quick ones…

  1. Current favourite piece in your closet?
    A brown corduroy button down dress from Paloma Wool that I bought recently.
  2. Do you remember the first piece of clothing that you ever bought for yourself?
    I would have NO idea and I find that sad. It was probably a tee-shirt from Target if I’m being honest.
  3. Do you still have it?
    Definitely not.
  4. Do you know who made the clothes you are currently wearing?
    Yes! A small company in Denmark knitted my sweater, my tee shirt is of my own design and is produced sustainably in Canada, and my leggings are from an activewear company that produces everything in a mom and pop shop out of Italy. Wearing a very well traveled outfit right now hahaha.
  5. Top tip for others wishing to shop more responsibly?
    Unless a brand *explicitly* advertises that it’s sustainable, be skeptical, and even if they do, remain skeptical. Educate yourself. We have the internet now and have 0 excuses to be ignorant! If you question the sustainability of a brand, do a quick google search before committing to the purchase. It’s true that sustainable fashion tends to be a bit pricier but just think about all the hands that it took to create the piece you’re holding and the people they belong to that are being paid well and treated with respect because you’re willing to treat your closet with respect. We don’t NEED an abundance of new clothes every season, we’ve been duped by an industry that only has money in mind. You don’t have to have the latest trend in your closet, you can re-wear clothes until they fall off your body, and anyone who judges you for your lifestyle is slow on the uptake.

Thanks, Arden 🙂

Check back every month for more in the Power of Influence series. We’ll post a new entry on the last day of each month throughout 2019. If you think there is someone we should be talking to, drop us a line on instagram.


We host Fashion Revolution Week in April of every year. This year kicks off on the 22nd of April. Throughout the week we encourage people to ask brands ‘who made my clothes’ in hopes of shining a light on the unknowns of the fashion industry. By doing this, we hope to shift the focus from consumers to brands, and to all the hands involved, be it producers, workers, farmers or otherwise. We track the reach and impact of collaborators throughout Fashion Revolution Week and use the findings to fight for change worldwide, through government and policy. We would hugely appreciate it if you would be willing to share a story or celebrate a brand you love or simply ask #whomademyclothes during Fashion Revolution Week in 2019.

New Inquiry: Sustainability of the Fashion Industry

The Environmental Audit Committee is launching an inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry.

The Committee will investigate the social and environmental impact of disposable ‘fast fashion’ and the wider clothing industry. The inquiry will examine the carbon, resource use and water footprint of clothing throughout its lifecycle. It will look at how clothes can be recycled, and waste and pollution reduced.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth. But the way we design, make and discard clothes has a huge environmental impact. Producing clothes requires toxic chemicals and produces climate-changing emissions. Every time we put on a wash, thousands of plastic fibres wash down the drain and into the oceans. We don’t know where or how to recycle end of life clothing.

“Our inquiry will look at how the fashion industry can remodel itself to be both thriving and sustainable.”

The growth of the fashion industry

According to a 2015 report from the British Fashion Council, the UK fashion industry contributed £28.1 billion to national GDP, compared with £21 billion in 2009.[1] The globalised market for fashion manufacturing has facilitated a “fast fashion” phenomenon; cheap clothing, with quick turnover that encourages repurchasing.

Environmental impact of clothing production

Clothing production consumes resources and contributes to climate change. The raw materials used to manufacture clothes require land and water, or extraction of fossil fuels. Clothing production involves processes which require water and energy and use chemical dyes, finishes and coatings – some of which are toxic.  Carbon dioxide is emitted throughout the clothing supply chain. In 2017 a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on ‘redesigning fashion’s future’ found that if the global fashion industry continues on its current growth path, it could use more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.

Environmental impact of purchase, use and disposal

Synthetic fibres used in some clothing can result in ocean pollution. Research has found that plastic microfibres in clothing are released when they are washed, and enter rivers, the ocean and the food chain.

 

Sustainability issues also arise when clothing is no longer wanted. A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that the growth of clothes production is linked to a decline in the number of times a garment is worn. Clothes disposed of in household recycling and sent to landfill instead of charity shops have an environmental impact, such as contributing to methane emissions. Charities have complained that second hand clothes can be exported and dumped on overseas markets. The UK Government has a commitment to ‘Sustainable Production and Consumption’ under UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Manufacturing in the UK

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in clothing that has been made in Britain. However there are concerns that the need for quick turn-around in the supply chain to facilitate the demand for “fast fashion” has led to poor working conditions in UK garment factories.

The Committee will also examine the sustainability of garment production in relation to the UK’s social and environmental commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The UK Government has a commitment to ensuring ‘Decent work and economic growth’ by protecting labour rights and promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers under UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.

Terms of Reference

The Committee invites submissions on some or all of the following points by 5 pm on Monday, 3rd September 2018.

Environmental impact of the fashion industry

Waste from fashion

Sustainable Garment Manufacturing in the UK

Deadline for submissions

Written evidence should be submitted through the inquiry page by 5 pm on Monday, 3rd September 2018. The word limit is 3,000 words. Later submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to inform the first oral evidence hearing. Please send written submissions using the form on the inquiry page.

Diversity

The Committee values diversity and seek to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind if asked to appear.

Further information

Membership of the Committee:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/

committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-committee/membership/

Media Information: Sean Kinsey  kinseys@parliament.uk/ 07917 488791

Specific Committee Information: eacom@parliament.uk/  020 7219 6150

 

Committee news and reports, Bills, Library research material and much more can be found at www.parliament.uk. All proceedings can be viewed live and on-demand at www.parliamentlive.tv

Photo credits:

Houses of Parliament and Garment Factory in Bangladesh by Carry Somers

Ocean by Ross Miller

 

The Five Years of Fashion Revolution

by Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro

On 8 May 2013, the two of us wrote an email which began ‘like many, we have seen the terrible tragedy in Bangladesh as a call to arms and feel that we should build on the momentum which has been generated. An annual Fashion Revolution Day would be a way to ensure that these deaths are not in vain, show the world that change is possible, and celebrate those involved in creating a more sustainable future for fashion’.

The responses to our request for involvement fell into two quite clear camps. Many responded with no hesitation; one email we received back just said yes, yes, yes! Some expressed a degree of hesitancy. Do we really want to call for a revolution in the fashion industry? How about calling it Fashion Evolution? Although the two of us are very different in very many ways, we are remarkably similar in others: we are both entrepreneurs, both pioneers in our respective fashion spheres, both risk-takers and both have a fundamental belief in the power of people to effect change given the right motivation. We had no doubt that a revolution was needed – a radical and pervasive transformation of the way in which the fashion industry operates.

We were right to push for revolutionary change. People were ready to listen.

Looking back at the minutes from our very first meeting, we had real clarity around how we would communicate our message in order to accelerate change: we need one big aim; make it as visible as possible; keep it strong; make it positive without ignoring the negatives; make it inclusive; talk about how the relationship with the people who make our clothes has broken down and connections need to be reestablished. Finally, we needed to give people a question they can all ask: who made my clothes?

This clarity of vision, coupled with the right channels of communication, has made Fashion Revolution the biggest fashion activism movement in the world. We have teams in over 100 countries and there are well over 1000 events happening all around the world this week.

Fashion Revolution is first and foremost about people; it is about making visible the connections between everyone in the fashion supply chain as a first step towards change. We’ve made citizens realise that their own wardrobe is in the fashion supply chain, about three-quarters of the way between the cotton seed and recycling the fibres. Everything we do has an impact on that supply chain. We reshape the fashion industry, the lives of its workers and its resources, every time we buy or dispose of an item of clothing.

Fashion Revolution was set up for the love of people, in memory of those who died at Rana Plaza, those who have died in countless other fires and building collapses in garment factories around the world, and those who are still losing their lives every week so we can wear beautiful clothes. That love of people continues to shine through. We are not about celebrities. We are not about power and success. We are about humanity. Fashion is about instant gratification. We are about the long term gratification that comes from knowing entire workshops, factories and communities are slowly becoming visible. We see empowerment not as a celebrity wearing a feminist slogan T-shirt on instagram, but as the workers who made that T-shirt being given a voice through the garment worker diaries project. When we inaugurated a new hashtag #Imadeyourclothes in 2016, someone commented on social media that it represented ‘the most joy I’ve ever had from a hashtag!’

We’ve given everyone tools to take part – there are online packs for brands and retailers, producers, makers and factories and educators. For fashion-lovers, as well as a Get Involved pack, there is our How to be a Fashion Revolutionary booklet, our fanzines Money Fashion Power and Loved Clothes Last, our guides to the #Haulternative and Love Story challenges. There are endless ways in which everyone can take part from changing your attitude, to changing your wardrobe, to changing your world. We’ve encouraged millions of people to Be Curious, Find Out, and Do Something. We don’t have all the answers. We want to encourage everyone to ask questions of their favourite brands, to do their own research, to use their power as consumers to hold the industry to account for its actions and impacts.

We called for a revolution at the right time as the infrastructure of the industry, and the industry itself, have shifted in the past five years.   We were right to call for a revolution because both ideas and practices had to be refashioned, a new paradigm was needed, and we can see this starting to happen. A revolution means change and change represents freedom. There is excitement around this change; it no longer feels dull nor scary, but represents a creative space in which to operate. Everyone within this space at this time can be considered a pioneer, and pioneers don’t have references – they make their own.

Five years on, a Fashion Revolution is taking place. Not fast enough, not enough engagement throughout the industry, but make no mistake it is happening. It’s bubbling up through the cracks and crevices, it can no longer be submerged. In another five years it will be a raging torrent, reshaping everything in its path. If you aren’t part of this movement, you will be swept along by it (or perhaps even swept away by it) as the structure of the fashion industry is revealed and revolutionised.

We are Fashion Revolution. Join us.