All week I’ve been seeing images come through on my social media news feeds of women (and some men) holding signs that say “I made your clothes.” The photos are all part of a movement called Fashion Revolution, with the goal of bringing attention to ethical fashion.
According to the Fashion Revolution website, the week was born out of the desire to remember the horrific events of April 24, 2013 when 1,134 people were killed and 2,500 injured in the Rana Plaza complex collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The upper floors of the garment factory were built without the proper permits, and the structure couldn’t bear the weight and vibration of the heavy machinery used there. The BBC News recognized it as the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history.
So how does knowing the name of the person who made my clothes make any difference?
Because the great disconnect between human life and the finished product is what enables slavery to continue.
Over the last few years, when my teen daughters walked through the brightly-lit mall, with electronic dance music playing overhead, surrounded by larger-than-life images on the walls of thin tan girls enjoying their summer fashions, they felt ignorant bliss to buy the clothes and join in the party. Honestly, before we embarked on this journey to ethical fashion, their favorite stores were Forever 21, Ross, and a whole slew of other “fast fashion” shops.
But there was the day that their eyes were opened. I showed them the documentary. They read the article. They saw the photo. The realization came- a human made this shirt. It was a girl like me. A girl with hopes, dreams, and brown eyes. She’s a teenager who likes a fresh piece of gum and clean sheets.
And it comes down to this. Every piece of clothes we put on our bodies was created out of pain and death, or peace and life. The seams were stitched together to the sound of laughter and music, or sighs and despair. They are handmade items that keep us warm, cover our skin, and feel soft to the touch. Our fashions display to the world a reflection of our personalities and creativity.
What if everyone had the chance to know the truth? If there was transparency along every step of the supply chain?
Who made your clothes?
For more resources and thoughts on this subject, check out the Fashion Revolution website.
About the Author
Rhonda LaBatt is the founder of Redemption Market, a fair trade boutique based in Phoenix, Arizona. Starting with a small partnership helping young women rescued from trafficking, it’s now grown to provide aid for more than a dozen organizations, providing clean water, building schools, and securing employment for some of the most vulnerable of the earth. She lives with her husband Kerry and three amazing teenage daughters, the youngest they adopted from Peru when she was ten years old. Rhonda loves to teach others about ways to fight human trafficking, the joys of adoption, and the sweetness of enjoying life.