Fashion Revolution Day

Remember this scene from The Devil Wears Prada?  I always think about it when it comes right down to fashion, because we really do have a choice.  If Miranda Priestly and the people in that room are the top tier of the fashion industry, then the people who make our clothes are at the bottom.

“You think this has nothing to do with you.”

Last year on April 24th, when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh, 1,133 people were killed and over 2,500 seriously injured.  Those numbers are staggering, and inside the factory, labels were found from stores including Cato, The Children’s Place, and Mango, among others.  The people inside were making our clothes. The clothes that are sold at inexpensive prices in mid-level stores across the United States.

“That blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs.”

I was at the beginning of my ethical clothing journey the day that building collapsed a world away, and one picture in particular opened my eyes to the atrocities taking place in the fast fashion industry. I won’t place the photo on my blog, since it isn’t mine and it’s quite disturbing, but here’s a link if you want to see what I saw, and it is graphic.  The purpose of that photo is not to shock, but to show you what happens when we look the other way.

“You think you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry.”

I don’t know if that man and woman were husband and wife, brother and sister, or maybe cousins or friends. Perhaps they were co-workers or even strangers who clung to each other in a moment of terror and desperation.  They died in darkness, in fear, and undoubtedly, in pain, and their lives were worth more than the thrill of a $9.99 t-shirt.  They have to be.

I once read that shopping is like voting with your money, and as consumers, we do have a voice.  We can tell our favorite stores and brands that inexpensive clothing shouldn’t kill those who make it, that they deserve to work safely, with regular hours and fair pay for the work that they do.  That man and that woman were just like you and me, with families to care for and basic needs they had to meet, and they found work where they could and were trying to get by, just like we all are.

Tomorrow marks one year since the Rana collapse, and it’s a day to reflect on our choices as consumers.  Fashion Revolution is asking you to take a moment to consider where your clothing comes from, to wear it inside out to show the tag, and to remember that someone, somewhere, made that shirt or blouse or dress that covers your back.  That touches your skin. That hides your nakedness.

Fashion is wonderful. It’s a way to show our individuality and express our creativity.  But it’s not worth dying for, and it shouldn’t have to be.

If you’re interested in learning more about the situation in Bangladesh, I can highly recommend this story. Hopefully these photos and facts will encourage you to make small changes that can greatly impact the lives of others for the better.  There were many survivors of the factory collapse, and they are trying to rebuild their lives.

And this short film beautifully demonstrates the stories that go into each piece of clothing we wear.

I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow when I’ll be sharing easy ways to start shopping more responsibly.