A couple of days after the Rana Plaza disaster, on the Sunday evening, I ran myself a hot bath and, uncustomarily for me, 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 concept of Fashion Revolution Day literally popped into my head.
A few minutes of consideration was all it took. I jumped out of the bath and emailed the most obvious person I could think of to run past this idea, Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Estethica at London Fashion Week and the queen of upcycling. The next morning, having received Orsola’s enthusiastic response, Lucy Siegle, who writes the Ethical Living column for the Observer, phoned me and was equally convinced that an annual Fashion Revolution Day was the right response. 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 deliberated over our first email to potential board members and eventually sent our initial concept for the day 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 – almost everyone we contacted wanted to be involved. The reply from Clare Lissaman “Yes. Yes. Yes. Great idea” was typical of the many we received in response to our Invitation to start a Fashion Revolution.
Our first meeting was held on 18 June, when John Paul Flintoff came up with the succinct strapline Who Made Your Clothes? as the theme of the first day. In Year 1, we decided that we wanted to improve transaprency and re-connect the broken links in the supply chain; we aren’t just purchasing a garment or accessory, but a whole chain of value and relationships. 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.
Zara coat, made in China, Vintage housecoat, made in ‘The British Crown Colony of Hong Kong’, Alexander McQueen dress, made in Italy
A few weeks later, on the ferry to France en route to Première Classe, more thinking time and the idea of turning an item of clothing #insideout on the day was born. Orsola added her amazing creativity to the concept and our call to action for the first Fashion Revolution Day was complete:
We ask everybody to wear one piece of clothing #insideout on the 24th April 2014, because we want people to change the way they look at their clothes.
With one simple gesture, we want you to ask: “Who Made My Clothes?” encouraging people from around the world to imagine the thread from the garment to the machinist that sewed it all the way down to the farmer that grew the cotton it was made from. We want everybody to show their support for better connections and transparency across the fashion supply chain and we hope that this will initiate a process of curiosity, an understanding that buying is only the last click in a long journey involving thousands of people: the invisible workforce behind the clothes we wear.
Six months today since the tragedy at Rana Plaza, Fashion Revolution Day has become a truly global movement. Baroness Young of Hornsey who set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion said “Fashion Revolution Day promises to be one of the very few truly global campaigns to emerge this century” We have Boards not just in the UK but in the US and Australia and engagement from the cotton farmers up through the entire supply chain.
On 24 April 2014 we expect 100,000 people around the world to turn an item of clothing inside-out on the day, from a cotton farmer in India to a garment worker in Bangladesh, from entire schools wearing their jumpers inside-out to a flashmob on Oxford Street. We hope that this gesture will not only make us all more curious about the human connections in the supply chain, but encourage brands to move towards greater transparency in response to our question Who Made Your Clothes?
To find out more, please visit the Fashion Revolution Day website fashionrevolution.org