Now that millions have asked major fashion brands, “Who made my clothes?” and Fashion Revolution Day has passed, your next question might be, “Now what?” You’ve turned your clothes inside-out, you’ve tagged fashion companies in your Social Media posts, and you’re ready for what’s next. It may seem like a lot has been done for Fashion Revolution Day, but the work has only begun. So, what can you do to continue to advocate for change in the fashion industry? Consider a few of these steps to show your support for a more ethical and eco-conscious world:
- Learn more about Sustainable and Ethical Fashion and the differences between the two. What is that exactly? Sustainable Fashion is dedicated to producing and manufacturing with eco-friendly practices and materials as well as making products with longevity in mind. Ethical Fashion is more concerned with preserving artisans’ traditional handicrafts and skills as well as ensuring those who make the products are given a fair wage and benefits including education and healthcare. To learn more about the differences, take a look at “Ethical vs. Sustainable Fashion: What Is The Difference?” from Yarina of Fashion Hedge.
- Before you throw out your clothes, consider other options. Do your clothes require simple repairs? Learn a few quick steps from Offset Warehouse’s “Tips For Mending Clothes” and head to a local craft store to pick up a few small items before you throw that coat in the trash. Not a skilled seamstress and don’t have a sewing machine? Do some research to find a local tailor to help you out. If you are an experienced sewer, jump on Pinterest to think about how you can re-purpose materials. Arranging a clothing swap or exchange with friends and selling used clothes to a second-hand boutique or online are also options. I highly recommend Twice.
- Donate to organizations that protect the environment and support the well-being of artisans worldwide. After reading “How To Go Green When You Travel” from Lonely Planet, I’m now convinced I will be donating to carbon offset programs to counterbalance the effects extensive travel has on the environment. Earthwatch, another organization dedicated to the environment through various projects allows you to donate and start expeditions for research that promotes conservation. A couple of organizations partnering with artisans to sell their products to fashion companies are Aid to Artisans, an organization that provides business training and market accessibility to artisans, and Nest another organization that partners artisans with fashion companies, such as Maiyet, to alleviate poverty and empower women.
- When you make purchases, find companies who assist and empower artisans. A couple of great websites who sell products from specific Sustainable and Ethical Fashion companies are Shop Ethica and Hearts.com. These sites do a good job of finding affordable options, so don’t start worrying that Ethical and Sustainable options are only available for those with a large salary. And, if you’re worried about cost, shop sales and subscribe to sites like Faire Collection, Raven + Lily, Passion Lillie, Everlane, PACT Apparel, and Indego Africa. A quick google search of “Ethical Fashion” or “Sustainable Fashion” will be sure to help you on your way.
- Shop at second-hand stores. I found fantastic options for work and travel clothes at second-hand and vintage stores. Not only is it affordable, but it gives a good home to a piece of clothing that would have sat in a landfill or hung in the back of another person’s closet.
- Sign campaigns and petitions that support changes in the fashion industry. After learning about the petition to ask Nordstrom and Yoox to list their product’s country of origin from Ecocult, I immediately signed and saw the difference it could make. In the case of Rana Plaza, the UNI Global Union, IndustriALL Global Union, and the Clean Clothes Campaign established the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund for individuals and companies to donate to compensate the victims. When tragedies like Rana Plaza happen, spread the word to create awareness and find out where to donate or sign petitions to make a difference.
- Attend and spread the word about events that feature Sustainable and Ethical Fashion companies. Events like NY NOW feature Sustainable and Ethical Fashion companies to sell their products to potential buyers and gain attention to media outlets. Although you can’t attend NY NOW as an individual, you can learn about more about businesses who sell their products and purchase from them on your own. Both the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held in the summertime in Washington, D.C., and International Folk Art Market, during the summer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, are events showcasing the skills, talents, and knowledge of artisans from all over the world.
- Support politicians who advocate for and pass laws to protect workers and the environment. By supporting politicians who want to pass laws that protect workers and the environment, a difference can be made in how we purchase as consumers. Stay informed and know who will support for causes you care about.
- Visit museums and exhibits that showcase traditional textiles and historical fashion. Why is this important? To help you see the significance of fashion in our society and why we should treat each garment as a work of art. Rather than tossing your clothes aside and not seeing them as an important part of your life, going to a display of clothing from the past will show you how clothes play an important part of self-expression and identity. More importantly, you’ll begin to appreciate the work that went into make an article of clothing your wardrobe.
- When shopping while you travel, think about the effect your purchase has. It would be nice to think that each amount you give to a local merchant goes to the artist who made it. This may not always be the case, especially in markets where bargaining and tourists are frequent. Am I saying you should never purchase from these markets? Not necessarily. Instead, consider buying directly from the artist in the store and sharing their work with others. I’ll admit that I’ve bought a tourist trinket for a Christmas ornament to remind me of my travels, but when it comes to an elaborate jewelry piece, I find a local artist working in their shop to purchase from. In some cases, no purchase at all is the best decision.
All of these steps are meant to encourage you to be more conscious as a consumer, donator, and voter. Being more considerate of everyday choices and purchases can make all the difference in the long run. If we are truly in favor of a sustainable world and better conditions for those who construct our clothing, then we need to take it one step further from turning our clothes inside-out. There are plenty of options and steps we can take to make the world better for one another and future generations.
What other steps do you think can people take to support sustainability and ethical practices in the fashion industry? What will you do to make a difference?