Fashion vs. Fairer Trade – Who Made Your clothes?

| | 17/04/2016

This Monday marks the start of Fashion Revolution Week, an initiative encouraging you to ask multi-national corporations and chains #whomademyclothes? In keeping with SIFT’s aim to support more socially responsible trading, Imogen Flynn takes a look.

On 24th April 2013, 1,134 people were killed and many more injured when the Rana Plaza fashion factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This tragedy brought overdue attention to the unsafe working conditions of these workers and the underage children that were also employed at the factory. High-street fashion brands were consequently named and shamed across the front pages of major newspapers.

As fashions come and go, so did this story. Nothing much has changed since.

Monday 18th April marks the start of Fashion Revolution Week. If you, like us here at SIFT, are tired of this exploitation of people in developing countries, then now is the time to act.

The Fashion Revolution initiative is attempting to unmask the double standards within the fashion industry with the motto ‘Who made my clothes?’, and hold these exploitative corporations to blame. Would you take the same nonchalant attitude to buying clothes if you could see the conditions under which they were made?

As also featured in SIFT Guide, Berlin was the location for a telling social experiment on this very question, in the run-up to last year’s Fashion Revolution Week. The project saw a vending machine filled with €2 t-shirts placed in the city’s well-known Alexanderplatz.

Shoppers selected their t-shirt but before they put their money in, a video popped up showing the conditions under which it was made. In nine out of 10 cases, people abandoned their purchase.

The slave labour phenomenon has naturally led to consideration of fashion as a ‘throw away’ consumption, due to the sheer cheapness of the clothes produced.

Rapper M.I.A has spoken up against this issue through her new collaboration with H&M. Never one to shy away from controversial topics, as her recent single about the refugee crisis demonstrates, the rapper has also just released new track ‘Rewear It’ as the soundtrack for the Swedish retailer’s new campaign to encourage people to recycle their old clothes.

The song tackles our throw-away fashion culture, where consumers are pushed to buy more and more to the point where our clothes are so devalued that they can pretty much be binned as soon as they have been worn once. It’s encouraging to see a multinational brand with as much clout as H&M joining in with the cause, although one is left wondering how integrity they can really boast, when they’re the ones asking people to buy the cheap, ‘throw away’ clothes in the first place…

Debates on H&M’s moral credentials aside, slave labour and throw-away fashion is a topic, like many others, that pops up in the news every now and then, but soon fades quickly back into the background. By encouraging you to ask the brands you love #whomademyclothes, Fashion Revolution Week is attempting to keep this on the forefront of people’s minds for a fair seven days. Will this be possible?

Visit the Fashion Revolution Week website to ask your favourite shop the key question.

Fashion Revolution Week runs from 18th to 24th April 2016. Check out to find out more and get involved. The initiative is on Twitter as @fash_rev and you can follow the hashtag at: #whomademyclothes.

Keep up with the SIFT movementon Twitterto support independent and fairer trading.

Photos taken from Google Images with license to re-use.