A revolution begins3 years ago
From the outset I must admit that, in the days following the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory, I wasn’t one of the people involved in formulating a response from the ethical fashion industry. If anything, I was perhaps feeling just a little bit self-satisfied, thinking that this might finally draw attention to Pachacuti’s pioneering Fair Trade work with our producer groups.
Some of the pilot projects in which I have been involved, such as mapping the GPS co-ordinates of each one of Pachacuti’s panama hat weavers’ houses for the Geo Fair Trade Project, have been incredibly time-consuming, and I have often wondered how many of our customers were interested in the fact that we have a fully traceable and transparent supply chain.
A couple of days after the Rana Plaza disaster, I ran myself a hot bath and, uncustomarily, I didn’t have an Archers podcast to occupy my mind. I would love to take credit for Fashion Revolution Day being a well-crafted idea, mulled over and honed until I was ready to share it with the world. But no, the idea to start a Fashion Revolution just popped into my head in the bathtub.
A few minutes of consideration was all it took. I jumped out of my hot bath and started to write an email to the most obvious person I could think of, Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Estethica at London Fashion Week. The following morning, having received Orsola’s enthusiastic response, Lucy Siegle called and was equally convinced that an annual Fashion Revolution Day was the right response to this tragedy. We felt that it was needed not just to commemorate all those who have died in the name of fashion, but to ensure that the many lives lost at Rana Plaza would be the impetus to bring about real change in the fashion industry. We sent our first email out to a wish-list of around 30 people who we thought would be the key figures to make this day happen. The response took us completely by surprise – everyone wanted to be involved!
In Year 1, we decided that we wanted to improve transparency and re-connect the broken links in the supply chain. I loved Orsola’s story of the drop of blood on the hem of a much-loved garment which had been handed down to her, and her ongoing curiosity about the woman who, many years ago, had pricked her finger and left this indelible mark of her labours on the seam. I was reminded of this story this morning, when listening to Saturday Live on Radio 4 on the subject of Forensics, where I learnt that ‘every contact leaves a trace’.
Some of those people I know: LanAndina who made my cosy felt slippers from which I am inseperable for most of the year, and Amanda and Orlando in Cusco who knitted my alpaca cardigan. But for other items I’m wearing, such as my red Jonathan Saunders skirt which has been a Christmas staple, I have no idea of the many hands through which they may have passed.
A few weeks after we had decided on our theme for the first Fashion Revolution Day, I was on the ferry to France and had the idea of turning an item of clothing #insideout as our signature action on the day.
Look at the label on the garment, think about its origin and imagine the many people who were involved in its creation, all of whom will have left some indelible, but invisible, trace on your clothes.
It is now over 8 months since the Rana Plaza disaster and to date we have 24 countries participating in the first Fashion Revolution Day, with more certain to come on board over the coming weeks. Baroness Lola Young has said that “Fashion Revolution Day promises to be one of the very few truly global campaigns to emerge this century” and we are certainly heading in the right direction, with everyone from cotton farmers to garment workers to consumers taking part in the day.
Yes, it has been a huge amount of work and I am so grateful to my excellent team of staff at Pachacuti who are keeping the business running as I work at least half the week, often far more, on Fashion Revolution Day. The same applies to my husband and my daughter Sienna, one of the models for our recent photoshoot with Keiron O’Connor (pictured right) who are having to take second place to my laptop most evenings.
However, I know that all of the behind-the-scenes work now is a necessary part of building a strong global movement which can help to bring about real change within the fashion industry. It is so exciting to see momentum building around the world and we now have a fantastic global co-ordination team, Project Manager and UK board who are taking on a lot of the responsibiity.
It is truly amazing to see the continued growth of my humble idea, born in the bathtub, and I am so glad that I decided to jump out and share it, rather than lie back, relax and ignore it.
I hope that Fashion Revolution Day will be the catalyst which brings everyone together to help create a more sustainable future for fashion.