Before editors and models touch down in Sydney for next month’s Australian Fashion Week, both the global fashion industry and its millions of consumers will be asked to reflect on the human cost of fashion.
Today is Fashion Revolution Day, an annual commemoration of the 1129 garment workers who died during the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. Since the tragedy, UK-based non-profit Fashion Revolution has run Fashion Revolution Week between April 24 and 30 each year. The initiative runs awareness-raising events around the world, pushing consumers to ask brands “who made my clothes?” and advocating for a more ethical and self-conscious industry.
Melinda Tually, the Australian and New Zealand co-ordinator of Fashion Revolution says she’s seen more and more local brands “jump on the transparency train” with more than 90 brands and retail groups in Australia now publishing their supplier and factory list (including Jeanswest and the Cotton On Group).
But there are still many brands that remain quiet.
“One of the biggest reasons they argue for not revealing their suppliers is competition concerns – that other brands will steal their suppliers,” Tually says. “It’s definitely harder for smaller brands with small orders – they’re reticent about losing a spot in a factory list that’s already full. But for [bigger brands] the proof is in the pudding – if the world’s biggest brands like Zara and H&M can publish their supplier list, then why not?”
This year, Fashion Revolution is encouraging brands to look into the wage issue.
“There’s a difference between the minimum wage [set by countries] and the quality of life the living wage affords,” Tually says. “The minimum wage often isn’t enough to cover someone’s nutritional, health and education needs. It’s difficult to settle on a common living wage across the world but it doesn’t mean brands can’t be trying.”
If you’re curious about which brands have revealed their suppliers and how they rank, you can search them in the Baptist World Aid’s latest ethical fashion guide.
As part of Fashion Revolution Week in Sydney, a $25 screening of The True Cost, a documentary drawing back the curtain on the true price of clothing, is taking place at George Cinemas on April 26. The film features interviews with Stella McCartney and Livia Firth (founder and creative director of Eco Age Ltd. The audience is encouraged to wear their clothes inside out, to show all labels, with all proceeds going towards Project Futures to support victims of human rights abuse in Australia and Cambodia.
Elsewhere in Sydney, Alex James’ free screening of Slowing Down Fast Fashion is being held at Citizen Wolf, exposing how transparency is trending. Citizen Wolf is also hosting an ethical fashion pop-up in the former American Apparel store on Oxford Street with 10 like-minded brands (including Mighty Good Undies and The Hides) working closely with Fashion Revolution Week. The pop-up will run until April 30.
There’s also a free clothing swap, Treading Lightly, hosted by Camperdown Commons, taking place across three days. Everyone is encouraged to bring up to six pieces of clothing between 6pm and 7pm from April 27. The swap begins at 7pm sharp.
A panel discussion and clothing swap will also be held in Petersham on April 28. Kristen Lee will unravel tangled topics with Jessica Parker (The Social Outfit) and local maker Osha Shealey of Australian-made, sustainable fashion line The Bilboa Loft. Tickets are $10 and are available here.
Additional reporting by Amanda Valmorbida.