Fashion Revolution Week: Our 5 take-aways

Congratulations to Fashion Revolution on another successful Fashion Revolution Week! The week kicked off with a thought provoking Fashion Question Time that focused on Rights, Relationships and Revolution. Particularly the link between climate and racial injustice. Thanks to everyone for commenting on our social media posts and joining our mend-a-longs. This is what we learnt…

1. Environmental and human rights need to be top of the agenda for business

Respecting nature and the rights of workers should be a moral obligation, it is also the only way that industry can continue to be viable into the future. There is a necessity to work with nature to create new methods of production, to build workplaces that are safe for and respectful of their workers and to strive towards a circular economy.

2. What’s in my clothes?

A shocking number of chemicals are used in our clothing, with around 800 of them known to interfere with hormones in both males and females. Since 1996 the EU has recognised these chemicals as hazards but she again highlighted how the interconnectedness of government and business meant it had been hard to get them banned. We asked Playtex and M&S #whomademyclothes and #whatsinmyclothes ? Playtex sent us a link to their sustainability credentials. We followed up asking why it is difficult to find this information on their e-commerce sites and why they haven’t taken part in the Fashion Revolution transparency index.

3. We have consumer power

Earlier this week there was news of a football EU super league, which the fans protested against. Within 24 hours of the pressure from the fans the league and government threatening with legislation all 6 UK clubs pulled out. The league can’t make a profit if nobody watches and the TV companies don’t pay for the rights. Just think how we could change the fashion industry if we stopped buying clothes from brands that don’t pay their garment workers a fair wage. If we stopped buying clothes made from chemicals and fibres that damage the Earth, the brands would have to adapt their sourcing policies to appeal to the consumers.

‘…if people are willing it could happen tomorrow, or it could be years and years…nothing is impossible.’

Nazma Akter , Fashion Question Time

4. Legislation is key to genuine change

Preventing Fashion’s negative effects on the Earth clearly isn’t as top of the UK Government’s agenda as football is. The UK Government rejected 2019 Fixing Fashion’s report by the Environmental Audit Committee which could have brought in some legislation against the negative effects of Fashion on the earth. Governments and businesses need to start putting the planet and people before profit. Governments need to shift subsidies from supporting damaging industries to fund those that are sustainable and ethical and to put legislation in place to give workers, consumers and citizens a voice

5. Consume less + mend more!

‘If we consume less it automatically reduces the number of plastics and chemicals in our clothes.’ Baroness Bennet of Manor Castle, Green Party. Before buying new clothes, consider what we already have in our wardrobes. Why hasn’t an item of clothing been worn for a while? Can it be repaired or altered into something you will wear? Or re-sell it on one of the many resell apps available for someone else to love. Follow one of our videos teaching how to mend clothes or join one of our workshops.

About Fashion Revolution Week: This is the eighth year in which the charity ask us to challenge our favourite fashion brands with the question #whomademyclothes? Fashion Revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequences of the fashion industry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model.

Fashion Question Time 2021

Click on photo for recording of the Question Time

Fashion Question Time has become a key part of the Fashion Revolution Week calendar over the last few years and acts as an essential platform in bringing together activists, legislators and business owners, allowing the general public to ask them questions and hearing their ideas from inside the industry.

This years’ panel focused on ‘Rights, Relationships and Revolution’ and was made up of Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director of Canopy, Nazma Akter, a Bangladeshi trade unionist and founder of AWAJ Foundation, Lara Wolters, a Dutch politician and member of European Parliament and Sunny Dolat, a creative director and co-founder of The Nest Collective . Chaired by Baroness Lola Young, co-chair of the UK’s Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion parliamentary group, the panel seemed to be truly representative of the different perspectives that form the fashion industry.

‘The health of the world is essential for people and future generations…Nature needs to be seen as a stakeholder’

Carry Somers

Below we go through some of the questions asked and some key takeaways from the session.

Lara Wolters and Sonny Dolat both acknowledged how climate and racial justice are so strongly connected generally, but particularly within fashion. Dolat discussed how ‘as far back as the 1950s the garment industry has relied on black and brown labour‘ and when it comes to the climate crisis, black and indigenous communities are the ones that suffer first. He also talked about how the industries desire to always find the cheapest labour meant that suppliers with bad working practices were moving between countries to set up new factories. Ethiopia is meant to be the next hotspot for the garment industry but one of the main draws here is the lack of a minimum wage.

Wolters talked about many of the ‘undesirable consequences of the fashion industry‘ and of the people affected by racial and social injustice. But she also highlights how many of these ‘oppressed people are now getting a voice’ through social media and there is a much greater awareness of the problems. At the moment there are no straightforward solutions but this pressure will force companies to start making some.

Nazma Akter felt strongly that sustainable consumption wasn’t possible under capitalism asking ‘eight years after the Rana Plaza disaster, what has changed? Nothing’.

Akter discussed how even during a strict lockdown in Bangladesh, factory owners put pressure on the government to keep factories open, particularly as lockdowns were eased in Europe and the USA. She felt there had to be a ‘fight against capitalism and neoliberalism’ in order to place the needs and rights of workers at the top of the business owners priorities.

‘There is a necessity for a fundamental rethink of how we think about business…fundamentally, it’s a question of social and racial justice’

Barroness Lola Young

Wolters responded to this question by discussing the shocking number of chemicals used in our clothing, with around 800 of them known to interfere with hormones in both males and females. Since 1996 the EU has recognised these chemicals as hazards but she again highlighted how the interconnectedness of government and business meant it had been hard to get them banned. ‘Lobby from the industry on these chemicals has been powerful’ leaving legislators fearful that any ban would affect the EU’s trade agreement with the US. There is some hope as an EU commission is still working on banning these chemicals in products with exceptions only being allowed if their use is proven essential for society.

All the panellists felt the need for both incentives and penalties from governments in order to encourage sustainability and innovation in the fashion industry. Dolat mentioned how these are essential as ‘if governments don’t incentivise innovation then people will replicate failed models’.

Wolters discussed how attempts at voluntary schemes have not really worked, and often allowed companies to greenwash or hide bad practices more easily. Legislation needs to affect shareholders, to disincentivise CEOs from making quick decisions that affect the environment and human rights and look ‘to create a race to the top rather than a race to the bottom’. In talking about H&M’s involvement in the forced labour camps in Uighur, Wolters mentioned how initially H&M tried to do the right thing by placing pressure on China to stop this practice but the Chinese government ‘bullied’ them into staying quiet. Similar accounts came out of the US, with the US government pressuring brands to stay quiet in response to the Black Lives Matter protests.

Nicole Rycroft commented on how there isn’t actually a need to normalise these incentives as they are already normal for other ‘pernicious industries‘ with trillions of dollars given out in subsidies to the fossil fuel and farming industries. She instead questioned how we move this across to industries operating in the circular economy or with socially just practices.

‘We are not against the industry, we are against the system’

Nazma Akter

Rycroft talked about how the idea of limiting growth in production doesn’t have to be seen as going backwards and how we need to look at disrupting linear supply chains.

‘We’re smarter than using 400, 500 year old trees to make fabric and pizza boxes’

Nicole Rycroft

There is a sense of positivity when looking at the innovation she has seen in the industry in adopting rental, repair and remodelling business models and sees the brands ability to change as necessary as they won’t be ‘viable businesses in thirty years time’ when access to raw materials runs out.

‘Rights of humans and nature are inextricably bound’

Baroness Lola Young

There was optimism in Atker and Rycroft’s responses to this question with both stating it simply comes down to people’s willingness for change.

‘…if people are willing it could happen tomorrow, or it could be years and years…nothing is impossible.’

Nazma Akter

Rycroft discussed how the scientific research on the climate crisis shows it is essential that we turn our situation around in this decade but also, that ‘if Covid has shown us anything, we can literally change everything overnight if we want to’.

Orsola de Castro, co-found of Fashion Revolution, finished with a closing statement that reinforced the need for a complete reevaluation of our systems in order to evolve and asked fashion brands to see sustainability not as a business opportunity but as a moral obligation.

Key points from Fashion Question Time 2021

  • Environmental and human rights need to be top of the agenda for business – respecting nature and the rights of workers should be a moral obligation, it is also the only way that industry can continue to be viable into the future. There is a necessity to work with nature to create new methods of production, to build workplaces that are safe for and respectful of their workers and to strive towards a circular economy.
  • Legislation is key to genuine change – governments and businesses need to start putting the planet and people before profit. Governments need to shift subsidies from supporting damaging industries to fund those that are sustainable and ethical and to put legislation in place to give workers, consumers and citizens a voice.
  • Our voices do have power – without social media, many of the accounts of oppression and abuse suffered by garment workers would not have surfaced about the fashion industry. Marginalised people and their allies now have a voice against corrupt governments and businesses and we can continue to place pressure on brands and politicians to change their behaviours.

‘There are no experts and learners in this life, we are all continuously both.’

Orsola de Castro

How has a year of lockdowns in the U.K. affected the fashion industry?

As we enter our second Fashion Revolution week during the COVID-19 pandemic, we look back at how repeated lockdowns have changed the fashion industry.

With the majority of industries being hit negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fashion industry has not avoided the effects of repeated lockdowns across the world. Brands that were formerly a staple of the British high street, like Debenhams and Topshop, have closed all of their stores as the way we buy our clothes has been pushed almost entirely online. Just over one year on from the start of the first lockdown in the U.K. and during Fashion Revolution Week, we wanted to reflect on how these changes have affected those working in the fashion industry. Many saw the first lockdown as an opportunity for the fashion industry to hit pause and come out the other side of it more sustainable, but are we actually any closer to this? 

The totally imbalanced power structure of the fashion industry was brought into sharp focus in the first few months of the pandemic as international brands began cancelling their orders. In an ideal world, this could have at least been a sustainable choice as they knew there would be a decreased demand for their products and many would go to waste. The reality is these large brands often pay for their orders weeks or months after they’ve been sewn and at the point of cancelling these orders, garments workers had already put in many hours of work to produce them.

Graphic about cancelled orders from Fashion Revolution.

Big brands seemingly felt no responsibility for the workers in their supply chains as their wages and livelihoods were taken away from them. According to Clean Clothes Campaign, a global network dedicated to improving the working conditions within the fashion industry, in the first three months of the pandemic alone estimates reported that garment workers were owed ‘between $3.2 billion and $5.8 billion (USD)’ (around £2.4 to £4.6 billion) in lost wages or unfair severance pay. Through placing pressure on these brands with campaigns like #Payup much of these initial cancelled orders have been repaid, but the delay in payment has created unstable conditions for the suppliers and this money hasn’t always reached the garment workers. 

A tag left by Labour Behind the Label in Primark stores to highlight the inadequate pay of garment workers.

When talking about the people who produce our clothes, it is easy to assume that these abuses of workers’ rights are happening in other countries as this can be where much of the media attention focuses. But the pandemic has highlighted the often ignored problems within the garment industry in the U.K. In 2018 the Financial Times reported on the illegal practices of some of the factories operating in Leicester, referring to them as the ‘dark factories’, with the average wage being reported as £4.25 and in some, it being as low as £3.

Leicester became a hot spot for Covid last summer with lockdown extended there even once other parts of the country began to open. The spread of the virus there was eventually linked back to the working practices of these factories with no social distancing measures put in place and staff being asked to carry on working even when they were sick. These actions placed pressure both on workers’ livelihoods and their lives, in January this year it was reported that women working in garment factories were one of the groups most at risk from dying from Covid. 

Labour Behind the Label, a not-for-profit campaigning group, who published the report into these factories last year, found that the online fashion retailer ‘Boohoo accounted for at least 75% of clothing production in Leicester’. Scrutiny was placed on Boohoo with £1 billion being wiped off its market value overnight and online campaigns like #boycottboohoo piling pressure on the retailer through its social media channels. Boohoo has since promised to stop working with any suppliers that fall short of its code of conduct but these promises have been made before. Boohoo is just one of the thousands of fashion companies relying on an unregulated industry to make huge profits for their CEOs and shareholders.

Blame continues to be shifted from retailers to suppliers with neither taking full responsibility or genuine action, leaving garment workers still being exploited and underpaid. 

With Boohoo recording pretax profits of £92.2 million in 2019-2020, many have said its successful business model has been the cause for the demise of older high street brands. In a year that’s seen Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Arcadia, the retail group that includes Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, go into administration it’s easy for their owners to blame the pandemic. In reality, the lack of regulation in the industry has meant that the multimillionaire owners of these companies have been able to take resources out of their businesses finances for years just to top up their own bank accounts. In 2005, Sir Phillip Green, the former owner of Arcadia, gave himself one of the largest ‘paycheques in corporate history with a £1.2 billion dividend…four times the annual profit made by Arcadia’ according to Labour Behind the Label. This huge sum was actually paid to his wife in Monaco meaning that no tax was claimed on it. Just the loss of these three companies sees almost 30,000 jobs put at risk here in the U.K. and they are yet to pay their suppliers for cancelled orders. 

Graphic from Labour Behind the Label showing the millionaire owners of Arcadia, Sports Direct and Ediburgh Woollen Mill.

With little positive news coming from the large fashion retailers over the course of the pandemic, hope for a shift towards greater sustainability in the industry has come from individuals, as consumers, as home sewers, as repairers and as online activists.

Online activism is often criticised for being performative without seeing any real change but the power of so many people, and particularly for brands, so many consumers, contacting fashion brands directly via Instagram or Twitter is undeniable. The #Payup campaign forced many brands into paying for cancelled orders and #boycottboohoo forced Boohoo to review and make new policies in terms of ethical working practices. Fashion Revolution Week encourages us to contact our favourite brands to ask them #whomademyclothes to make them look into their own supply chains. The more we all try to continue this action outside of campaigning weeks or when the news is focused on other stories, the more likely it is that brands will have to actually follow through on their promises and change their behaviour. 

Fashion Revolution graphic asking ‘Who made my Clothes?’

The demand for reusable face masks when the first lockdown began to ease in the U.K. meant that many people who hadn’t touched a needle and thread in years were suddenly becoming home sewers. Blog posts teaching people how to make their own face masks from old clothes took over the crafting side of the internet, whilst sales of domestic sewing machines soared up by 127%. For many, the desire to learn new skills in lockdown added a sense of purpose to their day, in our article for Pebble magazine last April we talked about the therapeutic aspects of sewing and how helpful it can be in practising mindfulness.

A photo taken at one of clothes repair workshops showing a participant learning to darn.

Second-hand clothing sales have also seen a huge boom, with data from eBay revealing that ‘two secondhand fashion items were sold every three seconds between January and July’ of 2020. The time to reflect on our buying decisions has allowed many people to realise how easy it is to buy quality items second-hand. Online resale marketplace Depop has also ‘seen demand for its service double during the Covid-19 pandemic’, and McKinsey’s State of Fashion report for 2021 shows that this rise in second-hand sales is being driven largely by Gen Zers (people aged 18-23) and millennials (aged 24-39), with 48% of people in these age groups surveyed stating they intend to buy more second-hand items after the COVID-19 crisis. With other data from the report suggesting that 71% of respondents ‘are planning to keep the items they already have for longer’ and another 57% are ‘willing to repair the items to prolong usage’, there is hope that this change in behaviour can’t just be called a passing trend. 

A graphic from McKinsey’s State of Fashion report for 2021 showing the buying intentions of participants from different age groups.

A year of uncertainty has shown how fragile the business model of the fashion industry can be and in times of crisis, it is those at the bottom of the industry who pay the price. This post has only covered a small snapshot of the issues that have happened in the last year, the accounts of forced labour that have come out of Uighur highlight how long-lasting and hidden these problems can be.

A graphic we created in 2020 showing how many items of cotton clothing are produced in Uighur forced labour camps in Uighur.

Educating ourselves about them can be overwhelming but a shift in the public consciousness about the value and quality of second-hand and repaired items is undeniable and if it continues, brands will take notice. The responsibility for large scale change lies with governments and industry heads, but our choices now can help to change their behaviours and shape a fashion industry we can feel proud to support.

Fashion Revolution 2021 campaign poster

If you want to take part in this years Fashion Revolution Week you can find out more information about the campaign and the organisation here. Join us for our online workshops for help with your repair and sewing problems.

Want to get involved and ask your favourite brands #whomademyclothes? Follow our tips here.

What’s In My Clothes? : Chemicals

‘Two thirds of our clothes contain 100% of chemicals and yet are not disclosed to the consumer. We are breathing, eating, drinking the fibres in our clothes, the majority of which are plastic and chemical’

Peter Gorse of Golf Refugees

Last year, journalist Ray Ritchie interviewed Peter Gorse of Golf Refugees as part of Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution Week. Peter believes fashion brands should use blockchain technology and fully disclose all the processes; including wages, list of chemicals used to make our clothes. Peter researches textiles and said he has ‘gone past how they look and feel and now I just see a product that is shredding what they are made of constantly’. As 60% percent of our clothes in the UK contain Polyester, ultimately a plastic, this is a frightening thought.

Peter states that there is not enough focus on the process of a fabric, only the fibre it is made from. All the characteristics of our fabrics are achieved by separate chemical treatments. He doesn’t divulge the chemicals involved, probably because there are so many. But he does say around 5% of the chemicals in our clothes are are carcinogenic and hormone disruptive. They should be disclosed and not hidden.

Clothes are sold on their positive aspects, ‘100% cotton’ for example, but Peter says we should realise there is a positive and negative to everything. Once consumers accept this brands are more likely to divulge what chemicals are in their fabrics and clothes. In 2011, Greenpeace launched a ‘Detox’ campaign asking fashion companies to stop polluting waterways with hazardous chemicals from clothing production. Their report in 2018 shows that 80 companies that voluntarily took the pledge to use less damaging chemicals by 2020 and ‘have achieved significant progress.’

According to Sustainable Angle, for Polyester alone, ‘substituting one metric ton of virgin polyester with its recyclable counterpart can reduce toxic substances by up to 90%’. However, Peter considers plastic bottles to be one of the worst plastic items to use as it is turning this PET plastic into a more harmful form due to the shredding of microfibres. It is a difficult debate as the alternative is single waste plastic being put into landfill and ending up in our oceans.

Dying and printing is another process our textiles go through to bring us the vibrant colours and patterns that we love. It is also one of the most polluted processes our fabrics go through. Indigo denim for example, the synthetic dye won’t stick to the fibres without the oxygen being removed, it then has to be put back in at the end of the process. Each step culminates to being damaging to the environment.

Taken from Golf Refugee’s Twitter page

This was all interesting but depressing. Other than wearing clothes made from undyed hemp and organic cotton, where do we go from here? Peter suggests:

  1. Brands need to move to using safer chemicals. Governments need to bring in legislation to make it happen.
  2. Clothes and textile labels should highlight the chemicals involved, the positive and negative aspects
  3. Future biology based clothing and dyes made from bacteria and fungi
  4. Consumers to buy less and look after what we already have

Not buying new clothes and repairing clothes massively reduces their carbon footprint. It is acceptable for jeans to have holes but less acceptable for shirts and t-shirts. We need to learn to live with the holes or learn to patch them. Materials are robust and can last for decades.’

Peter Gorse of Golf Refugees, Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution, April 2020

Who made my clothes?

What’s in my clothes? Cotton

What’s in my clothes? Polyester

What’s in my clothes? Viscose

What’s in My clothes? : Viscose

Cotton & Polyester are the most common fibres in our clothes and fabrics. Viscose is a close third. Particularly popular for fast fashion brands due to its soft drape qualities, it is often mixed with Polyester.

The fibre first became commercially available in the 1900’s and was manufactured as a cheaper option to silk. Vintage fans will recognise the fabric as Rayon but this is just the US name for the fibre, it is the same as Viscose. It is derived from a natural substance, cellulose but from that point on the processes to convert wood pulp to a yarn are wholly chemical. If the toxic waste is not dealt with responsibly, the emissions are damaging to the environment and the workers who produce the fabric. Sadly, the wood pulp can also be collected from ancient forests, deforestation being a contributor to climate change.

I have noted the key facts in the below mind map. I do love a mind map to help me absorb the facts, I hope you can make sense of it. My references are below if you need more information.

References

Changing Markets: Roadmap towards responsible viscose

Fashionopedia

Sustainable Angle

Further blog posts

What’s in my clothes? Cotton

What’s in my clothes? Polyester

What’s in my clothes? Chemicals

Who made my clothes?

What’s In My Clothes? Polyester

During Fashion Revolution Week 2021, the charity are asking us to investigate #whatsinmyclothes? We have been researching the most common fibres in our clothes; how they are made and their effects on the environment. Polyester is in 60% of our clothes in the UK and makes up 51% of all the fibres produced globally. It doesn’t require as much water to produce as Cotton but overall it has a more negative effect on our planet.

‘A polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt.’

Fixing Fashion, UK Government Audit Committee 2019

What’s Next for Polyester?

Plastic fibres have been in mass production since the middle of the 20th Century and increasing in use ever since. During 2019’s Fashion Question Time, Laura Balmond, Project Manager for Make Fashion Circular (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) stated ‘[In 2018] there were 100m tonnes of fibres that were produced for all textiles. Over 60% of those are plastic based so it is difficult to swap out like for like. Where would we find 60 billion tonnes of natural fibres from as soon as you needed them?’. It isn’t as simple as immediately swapping the global fibre production to a more sustainable source.

UK charity, WRAP, are funding projects to find new innovations in plastics recycling, including Polyester textiles. They are looking for a ‘state of the art’ solution to this growing problem. Currently, only 1% of textiles are recycled into new clothing, mostly because there isn’t the technology or the logistics to manage this. There is also the problem that once plastic (inc Polyester) has been recycled it is difficult to recycle it again as it becomes a much weaker substrate.

We don’t have to wait for this new technology, we can make a change now. We can buy less new products, swapping to vintage and second hand clothes. When we do buy new textiles, switch to organic or recycled. When washing fabrics that contain Polyester or other forms of plastic fibres it is important to wash them in a Guppy Friend Bag. This helps prevent microplastics from reaching our seas and oceans.

References

https://globalfashionagenda.com/pulse-of-the-fashion-industry-2018-report-released/#

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/1952/report-summary.html

http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/valuing-our-clothes-the-cost-of-uk-fashion_WRAP.pdf

This week is Fashion Revolution Week. The eighth year in which the charity ask us to challenge our favourite fashion brands with the question #whomademyclothes? and #whatsinmyclothes? Fashion Revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequences of the fashion industry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model. This year the charity are encouraging us to ask #whatsinmyclothes? and #What’s in my fabric? and investigating common fibres we find in our clothes

What’s in my clothes? Cotton

What’s in my clothes? Viscose

What’s in my clothes? Chemicals

Who made my clothes?

What’s In My Fabric? : Cotton

This week is Fashion Revolution Week. The eighth year in which the charity ask us to challenge our favourite fashion brands with the question #whomademyclothes? and #whatsinmyclothes? Fashion Revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequences of the fashion industry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model. This year the charity are encouraging us to ask ‘#whatsinmyclothes?’ and ‘#What’s in my fabric?’ and investigating common fibres we find in our clothes. We have investigated three fibres: Cotton, Polyester and Viscose. Plus a blog post on the chemicals found in our clothes. Firstly Cotton:

What’s in my clothes? Polyester

What’s in my clothes? Viscose

What’s in my clothes? Chemicals

Who made my clothes?

Who made my clothes?

At Fast Fashion Therapy we teach and encourage people to mend their clothes and buy second hand as a sustainable alternative to buying new products. We live by our values and rarely buy anything new. So when it comes to asking our favourite brands who made my clothes, we struggle. One item of clothing that is trickier to buy second hand is underwear and have bought new products within the last 12 months. We tasked the brands we bought from to encourage transparency within their supply chain. Of course, it doesn’t matter how old your garment is or whether it is second hand, it is still relevant to ask the brand #whomademyclothes? For the purposes of this blog it was easier to use a new item of clothing so the brand could track it’s supply chain. Here is how we got on:

Online information

What can you find out from the brand’s website? Don’t just look at the product pages and the brand’s advertising campaigns. Drop down to the bottom of the page and check out their corporate information. I chose a pair of knickers from Playtex’s current range and found out:

  • My underwear is 90% Polymide and 10% Elastane. Polymide is a form of Polyester, it is plastic and damaging to the planet. Could Playtex source a recycle form of Polyester? Elastane is a form of elastic – is it from a natural sustainable source or derived from petrol-chemicals like Polyester?
  • The label says the underwear was made in the Philippines, do Playtex own the factory? Do they run regular audits to ensure there is no modern slavery, that their workers are paid fairly and work in a safe environment?
  • The website shares information about the history of the brand, legal notices referring to the online sale, intellectual property etc. but nothing about where the underwear is made or a modern slavery statement
  • I typed into Google ‘who owns Playtex?’ The result is Hanes. There is even less information on their e-commerce site. I searched again using the term ‘Hanesbrands inc’. This brought up the information I was looking for. If this doesn’t work for your brand, try searching ‘*brand name* corporate fact sheet’ or ‘*brand name* newsroom’. If the company is a public company (listed on a stock exchange) they will publicly share information to advertise to investors.

HanesBrands is a socially responsible leading marketer of everyday basic apparel in the Americas, Europe, Australia and Asia-Pacific. Unlike most apparel companies, HanesBrands owns the majority of its worldwide manufacturing facilities, producing approximately 80 percent of the apparel it sells. HanesBrands takes pride in its strong reputation for ethical business practices. The company is the only apparel producer to ever be honored for its workplace practices in Central America and the Caribbean by the Great Place to Work Institute and has been named Forbes Best Large Employer. The company is an 11-time honoree of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star.

www.HBISustains.com.
  • This information is useful as if they own 80% of their factories*, they should easily be able to answer ‘who made my clothes?’ (*this information varies from 70 to 90% depending on which page of their website I was on.)
  • A SKU number is a code brands give to individual styles of clothing so they are trackable on their systems. Larger brands print the SKU number on their care labels, sometimes with a barcode. Include this information in your email to the brand.

Transparency

The fashion industry is traditionally secretive about it’s supply chain, not wanting their competitors to know where their products are made. Fashion Revolution have been promoting the transparency of supply chains for the past 6 years. Each year they publish the Fashion Transparency Index, a review of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers and ranked them according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts.

Transparency isn’t about which brand does the best, but about who discloses the most information. Transparency does not equal sustainability. Brands may be disclosing a lot of information about their policies and practices but this doesn’t mean they are acting in a sustainable or ethical manner. We know that the pursuit of endless growth is in itself unsustainable. However, without transparency we cannot see or protect vulnerable people and the living planet.

https://www.fashionrevolution.org/about/transparency/

Hanes Brands Inc have a dedicated sustainability website – so why haven’t they included this on their ecommerce sites? Why have they not taken part in Fashion Revolution’s transparency index? These are questions I shall be asking the brand.

Contact Information

Similar to the above search, finding contact information might also need a bit of investigating. The European Director of Corporate Social Responsibility is listed on the Hanes Sustainability site with his email address. If you are unable to find an email address try one of the following:

  • Tweet your comments and include the brand’s twitter handle, make the tweet public and they are more likely to respond
  • Post a photo of your item, tag the brand and include the hashtag #whomademyclothes?
  • Call the customer service number and ask for information
  • Contact the PR office or agency that represent the brand
  • Email the CEO : The brand’s CEO’s name will be publicly available. Write them a letter at the brand’s head office address. Or try and work out what their email address will be. I’ve worked for a fashion brand’s CEO as their PA. We often received emails from customers and always took the time to reply.

My email to Hanes Brands Inc

Let us know how you get on contacting your favourite brands, good luck!

Monday is the start of Fashion Revolution Week. The seventh year in which the charity ask us to challenge our favourite fashion brands with the question #whomademyclothes? Fashion Revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequences of the fashion industry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model.

What’s in my clothes?

Cotton

Polyester

Viscose

Chemicals

Fashion Revolution Week

Fashion Revolution influenced us to teach and encourage others to mend their clothes. If you haven’t heard of the movement before, they were founded in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 and have become the world’s largest fashion activism movement, challenging the consumers, policymakers and fashion brands through education. Fashion Revolution week co-insides with the anniversary of the disaster. It is an opportunity to ask our favourite brands #whomademyclothes? and help us to refresh the values that we adhere to all year, mending clothes rather than always buying new.


The fibres our clothes are made of have a huge impact on the Earth. From the natural resources required to grow fibres such as cotton and viscose. To the waste left over from turning it into yarn and fabric. We will cover some of the most popular fibres and what is involved in their production. Plus there effect on our Earth. We investigated Cotton, Polyester, Viscose and Chemicals.

We tasked the brands we bought from to encourage transparency within their supply chain. Of course, it doesn’t matter how old your garment is or whether it is second hand, it is still relevant to ask the brand #whomademyclothes? . Read our top tips on how to approach your favourite brand.

Just over one year on from the start of the first lockdown in the U.K. and during Fashion Revolution Week, we wanted to reflect on how these changes have affected those working in the fashion industry. Many saw the first lockdown as an opportunity for the fashion industry to hit pause and come out the other side of it more sustainable, but are we actually any closer to this?  Find out more here.

Fashion Question Time has become a key part of the Fashion Revolution Week calendar over the last few years and acts as an essential platform in bringing together activists, legislators and business owners, allowing the general public to ask them questions and hearing their ideas from inside the industry. Read our full summary here.


Diary Dates

There are lots of ways to get involved in Fashion Revolution Week, including mending your clothes of course! Here are some of the events that we are planning…

Mend-a-long

Monday 19th April, 7:30 to 8:30pm (Via Zoom)

Bring along one or two items of clothing and a basic sewing kit. Join in the chat whilst we collectively mend our clothes. Feel free to ask us any clothes mending questions or how you can get involved in Fashion Revolution Week – sign up to our newsletter for joining details

Thursday 22nd April, 7:30 to 8:30pm (Instagram Live)

We thought we would try and Instagram live session – ask us any clothes mending conundrums or tips on how to get involved in Fashion Revolution Week @fastfashiontherapy

Saturday 24th April, 5:30pm

We are teaming up with the Remakery again to bring you a clothes-mend-a-long session. Book your place via Eventbrite.


If you are interested in learning more about the fashion industry, it’s complex supply chains and how it can improve it’s carbon footprint – we recommend registering for Fashion Question Time. It is a powerful platform to debate the future of the fashion industry. The panel is chaired by Baroness Lola Young, co-chair and cross-bench peer for the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group: Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion. Book via Eventbrite (hosted via Zoom). We also recommend this BBC Radio 4 programme by Patrick Grant that offers a good explanation of fashion industry supply chains.