Exactly 5 years ago today, on April 24, 2013, an eight-story garment factory building in Bangladesh called Rana Plaza collapsed, killing 1,138 people, most of whom are young women. This was by no means unavoidable. The day before, cracks were being identified and an evacuation of the whole building actually occurred, but on the morning of the accident, workers were threatened with loss of their monthly pay if they did not proceed into the factory to work.
Since I stopped doing my headpiece label Yunotme, people have from time to time asked if I miss designing headpieces. To be frank, the true answer is no. It sounded cold even to myself, and I almost felt guilty saying it, as if I am exposing myself as not a “true artist” — I could breathe without making hats/ clothes/ art!
And perhaps it’s true, I am not a “true artist”. But like most others, we all once were artists, we just quit at different ages, when other things became more important. I found out the other day my dad was actually a brilliant portrait sketch artist as a kid, but then his passion for biology and medicine took over, or more accurately, the need to put food on the table (the passion developed later, much like the fortune of falling in love after an arranged marriage).
My point is, at some point, days like today became more important to me than making hats.
Since then, today has been declared Fashion Revolution Day, a day to reflect on the true cost of looking good, to encourage brands to make sure the people who make their clothes work in safe, healthy conditions, are paid a living wage and have the right to unionize. Today is the day when we realize we could vote with our choice AND our voice, when we ask #whomademyclothes.
Having talked to/ worked with brands and retailers in the industry, I can genuinely say that your voice DOES matter, because almost the #1 reason for a lot of brands (especially big ones) to care about ethics/sustainability is risk mitigation, which in short meaning avoiding a PR crisis (which impact sales) when sh*t comes out.
If you don’t want to publicly call out any brand because you are not sure of misinformation or simply shy, I encourage you to directly message them. I do the same at times as well because I prefer giving companies a chance to self-correct/ reflect / explain themselves before publicly saying anything. Although at times, when justified, public pressure helps motivate change.
If you check the websites of fashionrevolution.org and afterranaplaza.com, you could find out more about those who remain impacted and how you could help, even in small ways. Fashion Revolution even has a simple tool you could use to reach brands via email, Tweet, or Instagram to ask them #whomademyclothes — only takes 2 minutes as they drafted the message for you already!
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.” We owe it to ourselves to redefine beauty — the kind that is created in dignity, causing no unnecessary harm to the environment. Start by having a personal Fashion Revolution.