Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. Fashion Revolution started 4 years ago after the Rana Plaza Factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 1,134 people and injuring over 2,500 in one day. Since then, a lot of progress has been made towards a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. Thre3fold selected the panel to create a space to gather around and discuss some of these issues surrounding the Rana Plaza incident.
The Fashion Revolution Panel discussion was held at the Mezzanine. Panel hosts were Elena and Rachel Baxter who founded Conscious Magazine. Panel speakers included Jessica Kelly founder of Thr3efold, Alden founder of Ecocult, Ashley Austin, head designer of Behno and Carmen cofounder of Half united.
Thr3efold is an ethical fashion brokerage connecting ethical factories around the world.
Behno is a Womenswear label designed in NYC and manufactured with social consciousness primarily in India.
Half United is a socially-conscious lifestyle brand whose sole mission is to fight hunger.
Ecocult is a highly curated and beautiful online publication for those who want to live more sustainably- even in urban environments.
Conscious Magazine is a magazine that holds an influential voice within the social good community locally and globally.
Conscious Magazine: Today is the 4 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza incident. What has been done since then in Bangladesh to improve the working conditions?
Jessica from Thr3efold: Thr3efold pairs brands with ethically-certified factories which have basic ethical certifications like the workers are paid a living wage, no slave labor, child labor, and are paid overtime.
Conscious Mag: Are they actually able to strike or unionize without losing their job?
Jessica from Thr3efold: Our certifications also cover environmental impact: are you being conscious about your waste, the textiles you're using, how you're cutting patterns. The Social accountability Institute SAI is one of the gold standard certifications.
Conscious Mag: What does Ethical Fashion mean?
Alden from Ecocult: Fashion made by fairly paid workers in safe conditions. No slave labor, no child labor. You could extend that to the way they dispose of their waste. For example Bangladesh has leather tanning factories that dispose of chemicals in their water that are so poisonous that it bleaches people's skin in the village and their life expectancy is around 40 years old. It's really about how our clothes are affecting the people who make them and the community and environment around the factory. It could also be extended to the way we use animals.
Conscious Mag: Ethical business models: what has proven to be successful?
Carmen from Half United: At Half United, we feed children in need with every purchase made. From my time as a public speaker at Toms Shoes, I learned that you really can have Fashion and philanthropy as a combined unit. We tell our customers for every piece you purchase we donate 7 meals to a child in need, and we also employ women in Haitiand in North Carolina- women who have suffered from drug abuse and domestic violence. We believe that the right way to do business is to help anyone you can as much as you can. Feed kids, employ those in need, and pay a fair living wage. It's something that any business can adopt.
Conscious Mag: We see a lot of tags that say made In China or India. What does that mean?
Ashley from Behno: It's been interesting trying to change people's perceptions of what "made in India" and "made in china means". I think a lot of it has to do with their culture. In India they aren't used to making blazers so it requires a lot of training. We spend a lot of time teaching them specific techniques which takes time and is a long term process but it's definitely paid off.
Conscious Mag: The hashtag "who made my clothes" - what does that mean to the artisan?
Ashley from Behno: I think a lot of people dismiss it because they say "I don't work in fashion, that doesn't apply to me" but we all wear clothes. Fashion affects all of us it's the 2nd largest polluting industry in the world. I remember taking our first look book back to the factory and we went through page by page with our pattern maker and every piece had a story. We were just speaking in broken English to each other laughing about how this lining or how that jacket drove them crazy. Every piece is so personal. Before you see a garment in a magazine, we already went through 3 or 4 iterations. There's so much work that goes into just one piece.
Even though H&M is transparent about the factories they use, they're still pushing this idea of buying clothes to throw them away. We don't need to buy a new wardrobe every time we go shopping. We need to slow it down and rethink the way we shop and consider what it means to have a solid wardrobe. It takes so much time for clothes to break down in landfills it's so bad for the environment. It's really important that we realize what we're buying into when we buy clothes.
Conscious Mag: We're curious to hear what everyone else thinks about this- how instead of buying special investment pieces we buy in bulk.
Alden from Ecocult: What we're seeing happen in fashion is very similar to what's happening socio economically in the US. The middle class is disappearing and the middle of the road Fashion is disappearing too. Mall retailers are closing stores and department stores are failing. You have people going two ways: super trendy, super cheap or buy less, buy better- which is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact. 22% of the environmental impact from clothing is from consumers wearing it briefly and the moving on to something else. The other trend we're seeing is fast fashion getting faster and faster. You've got teenage girls buying a homecoming dress on Monday and expecting it to arrive before Friday and getting angry when it’s not there yet. That sort of fashion is being treated like a disposable water bottle. We have to overhaul the way we think about fashion.
Conscious Mag: How can we market to this new generation? How can we inspire them to shop better?
Carmen from Half United: It's all about creating a tribe. The name Half United is based on the idea that buying a product is only the first half. You are uniting with people around the world to feed children in need. The next step is inviting them to come to our website where we'll teach them how to shop sustainably and ethically, how to get into your own community to fight hunger, creating a capsule wardrobe or shopping with purpose.