How to get involved in Fashion Revolution Week 2020

Fashion Revolution Week 2020

Fashion Revolution Week 2020 is on from April 20th – 26th. Image via Maggie Marilyn.

Fashion Revolution Week 2020 is on this week with the global activism movement continuing to campaign for a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry around the globe. From April 20th – 26th Fashion Revolution Week asks consumers to ask the question #whomademyclothes? to their favourite brands to help increase transparency of what is often otherwise a closed conversation. The movement focuses year round on the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry and the need for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain as well as celebrating those who are on a journey to create a more ethical and sustainable future. During late April that focus becomes the Fashion Revolution Week annual campaign in recognition of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013, where 1,138 garment factory workers were killed when the building they were working in collapsed because it was unsafe.

Fashion Revolution is a non-profit organisation with a presence in over 100 countries around the world including New Zealand but until recently we didn’t have an official national team. Fashion Revolution New Zealand became an official member of the global Fashion Revolution committee at the end of 2019. While there were lots of live events planned for 2020, the movement has gone completely digital this year in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Here in New Zealand, this year’s Fashion Revolution Week includes an exciting series of digital events including one of New Zealand’s leading ethical fashion brands, Kowtow, in the Fashion Revolution FASHION OPEN STUDIO programme.

Our country’s new national team of fashion activists all hail from different sectors of the fashion industry and are united by the common desire to champion those who are tackling the challenge of creating a fairer fashion system for all. The team are lead by Country Co-ordinator Amy Conlon; a passionate sustainable fashion activist and founder of ethical fashion accessories brand Outliv, with Assistant Country Co-ordinator Rose Jackson; New Zealand Fashion Museum trustee, long-time advocate for vintage and second-hand style in New Zealand and guardian of Collectors Anonymous, Kate Hall; anti-influencer and ethical fashion blogger and Grace Clarkson; a University student passionate about bringing sustainability to the forefront of the industry.

“More and more local designers, producers, brands and retailers are bringing ethically produced fashion to the marketplace, and educators and organisations are working hard to make traceability an everyday reality in the fashion industry,” says Country Co-ordinator Amy Conlon says. “We’re looking forward to supporting these efforts in Aotearoa and bringing more awareness at a national level to the vital work that these ethically minded fashion brands and industry partners are doing to make necessary and lasting changes to the fashion system.”

Fashion Revolution launched FASHION OPEN STUDIO as part of Fashion Revolution Week in 2017 and this year 22 brands around the world have been invited to take part in it including Kiwi brand Kowtow. FASHION OPEN STUDIO shines a light on emerging designers, established trailblazers and major players, celebrating the people and processes behind fashion and accessories collections while promoting industry transparency and longevity through simple, authentic narratives that resonate with consumers and creatives alike.

Kowtow will be hosting Kowtow Conversations on their Instagram @kowtowclothing at 7pm NZT on Tuesday 21st April. Kowtow Founder and Creative Director, Gosia Piatek, will be talking to Fairtrade CEO, Molly Harriss Olson, who has a fascinating history of campaigning, from the Rainbow Warrior in the 1980s to the White House. During the live conversation viewers will be able people to submit their own questions too.

Fashion Revolution Week in New Zealand also has a number of digital activities planned including “What’s in Your Wardrobe?“, digital storytelling opportunities, online craft activism workshops, articles with the best ethical fashion books, podcasts and documentaries to check out and more. While we have amazing local brands like Kowtow and Maggie Marilyn leading the way in sustainability there is a lot more to do and learn, and we can all play a part in changing the fashion industry for the better.

You can find out what’s happening in New Zealand for Fashion Revolution Week here and make sure you follow Fashion Revolution Week New Zealand’s Facebook and Instagram channels to find out the latest details. You can check out Fashion Revolution Week New Zealand’s 7 ways to get involved below too.

Fashion Revolution week 2020

A cotton field which is often the beginning of the fashion supply chain. Image by Yoan Jolly for Kowtow.

The Top 7 Ways You Can Get Involved in Fashion Revolution Week 2020

1. Follow @kowtowclothing and attend their FASHION OPEN STUDIO digital event on Tuesday 21st April at 7pm, where Founder and Creative Director, Gosia Piatek, will be talking to Fairtrade CEO, Molly Harriss Olson about fair trade and ethical manufacturing.

2. Turn your clothes inside out, take a photo of the label, upload to your social channels, tag the brand and ask the question #whomademyclothes to bring attention to their supply chain and workers conditions, or show off your sewing skills and promote your own brand by sharing a photo of your latest creation with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes.

3. Visit the Fashion Revolution website www.fashionrevolution.org to check out all of the incredible free digital events that are happening throughout the week, including their annual Fashion Question Time, and follow Fashion Revolution NZ on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with what’s happening locally throughout the year

4. Donate to non-profit organisations that are providing support to the millions of garment makers that have lost their jobs. Fashion Revolution suggests the AWAJ Foundation, The Garment Worker Centre, GoodWeave International, the World Fair Trade Organisation or CARE.

5. Get your sewing kit out and join a free online workshop by Renee from That Perfect Hour to make a fashion activist patch. Head to Fashion Revolution NZ’s Facebook to find out more.

6. Learn more about sustainability in the fashion industry and sign up to Fashion Revolution’s free course, FASHION’S FUTURE; The Sustainable Development Goals, on the online learning platform FutureLearn.com which commences at the end of April.

7. Write a love letter to your favourite piece of clothing and share it online with the hashtag #lovedclotheslast

Fashion Revolution Week 2020

A garment being sewn in India. Image by Yoan Jolly for Kowtow.

We asked some of Fashion Revolution Week New Zealand’s new team why Fashion Revolution Week matters and what the movement means to each of them personally?

Kate Hall
Ethically Kate
Ambassador/ Working Committee – Fashion Revolution NZ

Why it matters?
Fashion Revolution is a good slap in the face for the world to remember the true cost of fashion. Every day influencers share about ethical fashion online, writers report on the horrific truth of the fashion industry, companies try their best to let their customers know their clothing is made ethically, and individuals encourage their families to buy clothes that are made by people who are treated fairly in the workplace. But organising a time when EVERYONE does this in synchronization, has a tidal wave effect instead of constant waves crashing on the shore. The results and impact are massive. During Fashion Revolution Week we also remember and honour those who lost their lives to the fashion industry, those who continue to be exploited, and those who have successfully fought against it.

What it means to me?
For me personally, I love celebrating the POSITIVE stories and hero-ing the brands who ARE the fashion revolution! Each year I have a wee teary moment reflecting on the ethical fashion brands who have grown, the brands who have begun, and general leaders who are steering the way. We are truly moving forward in this ‘Fashion Revolution’ and I’m always so proud to be part of it.

Rose Jackson
Trustee – NZ Fashion Museum
Guardian – Collectors Anonymous
Assistant Coordinator – Fashion Revolution NZ

Why it matters?
Fashion Revolution is a global activism movement that stemmed from the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which killed 1,138, and injured over 2,500 people in 2013. While this was caused by myriad factors, to my mind the main issue was the insatiable global demand for “fast fashion” at any cost.

Fashion Revolution matters because systemic reform of the fashion industry is crucial to the future survival of our planet and Fashion Revolution Week is a great point in time that we can all rally around those people involved in the industry that care about people and the planet. The organisation’s premise is simple. By asking consumers, designers, and brands a simple question “Who made my clothes?” and more recently “What’s in my clothes?” they prompt people to gain a deeper understanding about the social and environmental impacts of what they wear.

There’s been a global movement towards a more sustainable industry over the past few years, but unfortunately change not happening quickly enough. Here’s a few stats from the United Nations (March 2019) about the environmental impact of the fashion industry:
– 93 billion cubic metres of water, enough for 5 million people to survive, is used by the fashion industry every year
– It produces 20 per cent of global wastewater
– Clothing and footwear production is responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions
– Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned
– Clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014
– The average person is buying 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago but, according to the McKinsey 2019 State of Fashion report, they are only keeping them as half as long as they used to
– 2,000 gallons of water is needed to make one pair of jeans

This can’t carry on and I’m sincerely hoping that the pandemic is seen as an opportunity to reshape the industry, slow it down and give people pause for thought about whether they really need to jump back on the consumerist hamster wheel or not.

What it means to me?
Personally, I absolutely love fashion, but I care about the hands that make the clothes as much as the clothes themselves so I don’t want anyone to suffer for my style choices. We used to have a thriving and highly skilled industry in New Zealand (check out the NZ Fashion Museum to see some of the amazing designers of the past), but with the removal of tariffs in the 1980s and increased consumer demand for cheaper clothing, it has been in decline for many years which is a tragic loss to our collective creativity and economy.

We all have the power to either support exploitative systems by purchasing cheap fast fashion, or discover small local makers, wear independent brands that pay their workers fairly, make our own clothes and shop the second hand clothing market – one that by its very nature has “reduce, reuse, recycle” as its central underpinning. I hope that Fashion Revolution will further the conversation about sustainability and ethical practices within the fashion industry and lead people to take positive action and change the way they consume.

Amy Conlon
Founder/ Creative Director – Outliv
Country Coordinator – Fashion Revolution NZ
Product Selector – Dove Hospice

Why it matters?
We are living in an era of the most urgent awakening that humans have ever had, the Anthropocene. This is the first geological era of which human actions have shaped our planet’s climate and environment. Although the clothing industry isn’t solely responsible for this, it is one of the most polluting industries in the world. We are completely pushing the boundaries of nature, yet this industry could help preserve the future of this planet for future generations.

Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, exceeding 100 billion garments in 2014. The garment industry is now estimated to produce over 170 billion garments annually for a planet holding 7.5 billion people. We are buying more and more clothing, made from fabrics that are unsustainable, in a culture of disposability. The pace and quantity produced is gaining such momentum that this ‘fast fashion’ is too quickly ending up in landfill and the side effect of which is impacting our climate significantly.

The majority of people who make our clothes are living in poverty and being exploited, helping some people to gain huge profits while enslaving others. We have sadly seen this first hand as covid-19 impacts the clothing industry and this is inexcusable!

This industry has a design flaw and cannot continue this way as it impacts our climate, water and biodiversity. This linear design system is not working and needs to shift to a circular economy, closing the loop. We need to design for longevity and treasure our clothing and keep it for longer.

What it means to me?
Fashion Revolution’s honest, informative and in some cases shocking approach to creating change inspired me to create a product that values circular design, upcycling, inspiring industry and system change and with a commitment to giving back to our environment.

I chose to be part of Fashion Revolution here in New Zealand, to stand united with hundreds of other fashion activists here in New Zealand and around the world who are passionate about clothing, style, sustainability, collaboration, creativity, people, fairtrade and the future of this planet.

To be truly sustainable we need to look to brands with circularity, brands and companies who upcycle, recycling, resell preloved and vintage, offer rental options, lifetime repair services and take back recycling schemes. We need to care for and repair our clothes because ‘Loved Clothes Last’.

Images via Fashion Revolution Week.