Image from New York Times
Writing this blog post has been more challenging than any other I have written so far. I’m trying to reflect on a day that was momentous for me in more ways than one- it was a major turning point for my lifestyle and approach to fashion, and it was the catalyst for creating One Fair Day. It was also a day where thousands of people lost their lives, loved ones, or livelihoods.
Today marks one year since the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, that killed over 1000 textile workers – mostly women and girls – and injured another 2500 people. Even today, one year after the event, I’m horrified to think that young women with hopes and dreams not unlike my own lost their lives or livelihoods making clothes for brands that I bought and wore.
I have struggled writing this post, because I want to it reflect the seriousness and significance of the Rana Plaza building collapse. But I have been constantly tripped up trying to reconcile this with a tone I don’t want in this post: guilt-inducing and reprimanding. Sure, there is much conduct that we could reprimand or feel guilty for. Guilt was one of my first reactions this time last year. But though these strong emotions can be excellent motivators for change, they can also be paralytic because they make the situation seem too big and too hopeless. The situation is big, but it’s not hopeless.
My second reaction this time last year was: “I wish there was a way to know for sure where my clothes are from”. An assurance, if you like, that my shopping can help have a positive, rather than negative, impact on the world’s poorest. I was thankful to learn there was a solution we can all be part of. That’s where my search for Fairtrade products truly began. And as Qinnie from Oz Fair Trade recently said to me, the more you dig for Fairtrade products the more you find.
As much as there was (and still is) much to reprimand and criticise, there is much to be hopeful for. As Rana Plaza was the catalyst for me to start this blog, it has also been the catalyst for collaborative action. Today is Fashion Revolution Day. It’s an opportunity to advocate for change, and to remember the workers who died in the Rana Plaza building collapse so they didn’t lose their lives in vain. The day before ANZAC day, I humbly borrow an expression used for soldiers*: lest we forget.
In the year since the Rana Plaza building collapse, I have come to believe that three values are imperative to change in the fashion industry: transparency, accountability and a commitment to try. These values are useful in all areas of life, but particularly when shopping in a globalised world.
- Learn more and demand transparency. For Fashion Revolution Day, turn your clothes #insideout and ask where they came from. As this Op-Ed from Business of Fashion puts so elegantly… “[we] have come to expect greater transparency about the food that goes into [our] bodies and [we’re] now starting to expect that same transparency in the clothing [we] put on [our] bodies.”
- Be accountable for your role in the supply chain; though your impact may seem small, you’re part of a larger system. As Anna Lappe has said, “every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
- Above all, commit to try – to support transparency, to be accountable and to shop in a way that supports positive change. You might find it easier and more rewarding than you anticipated. If not, renew your commitment. Recognise that your shopping might not be perfect, but small steps by each of us will lead to a collective shift towards a fairer system for the world’s poorest.
As always, I’m eager to help you every step along the way, in any way I can.
Yours Fairly (and hopefully),