Looking deeper into the pre-development of the clothes we purchase

Fashion Revolution is a movement challenging consumers to think about the development of clothes purchased and the consideration of people and processes involved in producing these clothes. A movement encouraging us as consumers to demand transparency in the supply chain by asking brands #whomademyclothes.

Last month I took part in an online course hosted by Fashion Revolution and University of Exeter. The course aimed to put into action Fashion Revolution’s mantra – Be Curious, Find Out, Do Something.

Image source: Fashion Revolution

Be Curious: 

Start by looking at the labels sewn on the inside seam of your clothing; here you will find washing instructions (how to wash this clothing item effectively without harming the fabric), the fabric composition (what type of fibres or materials the fabric consists of) as well as country of origin (where the product was made). When you look closely at your clothes, think further on the following:

  • How many parts have been cut to put the garment together? (1x front, 1x back, 2x sleeves, or is it more complex, 1x back yoke, 1x back, 2x front, button stand, pockets, plackets, 2x sleeves, 2x cuffs…). If there are more parts to be put together, then there is more work to be done, resulting in an increased price of the product.
  • Have you considered the stages and the journey a clothing item has taken? From raw material (natural cotton fibres or synthetic manufacturing), to being spun into yarn, then dyed and woven (hand or machine), cut, sewn, packaged, transported throughout the stages (air, sea, road), later to the warehouse, stores or delivered to your doorstep. These are just some stages in how the garment is developed, there are several other factors depending on specific designs.

Find Out:

Now that you’ve realised that there is so much more to each clothing item, aim to do some detective work.

  • Request brands to disclose more information on the visibility of their supply chain; where are the factories based, what are the working conditions like, where was the fabric sourced and how was it prepared? There are various ways of contacting the brands; email, social media or at the shops. However, you must remember that the people you initially contact may not be the ones working directly with developing the clothes, and so will not be able to give you answers immediately. Be persistent in wanting answers, which could result in passing your questions to relevant departments within the brand. Keep asking until you receive a response.
  • Online research on the brand can also be very effective. Check if the brand has disclosed their supplier list, a Modern Slavery statement and what their aspiring ethical and sustainable plans are. Use resources available on the Fashion Revolution website such as the Transparency IndexFanzine 001- Money Fashion Power with garment worker diaries or check Pinterest boards for further recourses.

Do Something: 

Now you can begin to share your findings and inspire others to be curious of the processes of their clothing items. Encourage others to think about the fashion supply chain and to start asking brands about disclosing transparency.  Fashion Revolution shares various ideas in how you can become more involved with the movement:

  • Join or create events near you: at home, work or with friends.
  • Take part during Fashion Revolution week and other events throughout the year.
  • Continue to question brands by asking #whomademyclothes.

Most importantly, reconsider your shopping habits:

  • Buy less but better quality.
  • Ask brands more questions.
  • Choose from ethical and sustainable brands.
  • Consider purchasing second hand, from Charities or swap with friends and family.
  • Support local and small business, artisans and craftsmanship.

Remember, we don’t want to boycott brands as this could result in loss of jobs for the workers; the aim is for the clothing brands to implement sustainable and ethical methods in garment development. We are asking for visibility in the Fashion Industry, to prevent human and environmental exploitation.