#whomademyclothes. You probably have already seen this hashtag on social networks. The initiative was launched by the platform Fashion Revolution and its intent is to encourage consumers to find out the way their clothes are made.
Behind #whomademyclothes is the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, in Bangladesh, on 24 April 2013. This location was occupied by five factories in hazardous conditions and the collapse killed 1138 people. According to Carry Sommers, founder of Fashion Revolution, this was also the day when this nonprofit association and community activity was born, whose goal is to do everything in its power to ensure that the Rana Plaza event does not repeat itself.
Four years later, despite being headquartered in the United Kingdom, Fashion Revolution is global and is scattered throughout several countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and in the Americas.
Umbigo spoke with Salomé Areias, accountable for Fashion Revolution in Portugal.
Fashion is old-fashioned
“We want to implement proper manufacturing and consumption practices in the fashion industry. We do not have the goal to be an association that conducts a lonely fight again the ‘bad guys’, because we do not have enough information that allows pointing our fingers at everyone. And that is the issue, the lack of information,” Salomé explains. So Fashion Revolution tries to act on two different fronts: to foster the transparency of brands when it comes to their production processes and a proactive participation of the consumer who wants to know more. Bottom build, to edify a trustful dynamic between those who manufacture and who purchase. “We want to raise awareness, we want to teach, so that people can internalize the message, putting it into practice and they convey it to others. A chain reaction in order to, one day, make the whole system change,” he concludes.
All branches share the same goal. Those who are the coordinators of each country eventually join the movement, since they see in this mission a reflection of how they want to be in life. In Salomé’s case, even though she has a degree in Fashion Design, this sort of awareness emerged after it. “I did the whole degree completely unaware of these issues. I remember a time in my life that I thought that the cheaper, the better. We were students, we had no money, and if I managed to have my style with the least amount of possible, that was perfect,” she recalls.
During the master’s degree, she revisited what was always of her interest in fashion – to be a social movement – and began to search within the field of though trends. Her professional career was developed in this way, but she also worked as a consultant for innovation and as a teacher. She realized that one of the biggest cross-sectional thought trends – from fashion to food – was sustainability. “When I worked as a consultant for innovation, trends are the databases that you interpret to know what the current needs are and to realize what you need to create in the world to address those needs. When I employed this concept in the need for sustainability, I started to realize all the rotten things of this industry. There was a hurdle to anything one wanted to create: the imperialism of the major brands has no room for production of independent brands, production methods that dry the soil, that harm the environment, precarious working conditions, etc. I realized that the greatest innovation would be to start again”, Salomé says.
Bottom line, Salomé’s research and professional activity made her be in tune with thought lines that already existed, like the Anti-Fashion manifesto of the trend analyst Li Edelkoort. One of the points of this manifesto is the need to redo the creative process associated with fashion. In a world created by and for interaction, the cult of individualism (in this case, of the designer) is senseless. The mechanism to create a fashion product has to address the real needs and cannot recycle aesthetics or be a response to a creative stimulus.
To establish a new kind of training is a vital step in this process and, following this idea, Salomé created a Fashion Design and Innovation course in ETIC. Its curriculum is based on design thinking and teaches students on how to look deeper into the future and not so much into the past. “This is not the future in two years when the collection is launched, but the future in a more structured and thoughtful way,” she explains.
During the last year, she was in Angola to work as a production manager for a retail business. She wanted to reinforce her knowledge even more on how the industry works in its several branches. This is the only way we can identify issues and think about solutions. “I had the behavioural side of things, but I never had contact with sales analysis, with statistics,” she explains.
Fashion Revolution in Portugal
Fashion Revolution is in Portugal since 2014, even though Salomé considers it started to exist for real in 2016. It was in this year that the movement jumped from the online realm to the real world, organizing the first Swap Market ( a market where we can directly swap clothing that we no longer want or use). It also developed a partnership with MUDE, with the latter granting spaces for the Unconference “How can we set up a system of sustainable fashion” and the national premiere of the documentary True Cost.
Unlike Fashion Revolution in the United Kingdom, which has already managed to establish a network of financial support, in Portugal the association has yet to be economically viable. Everything has been accomplished through partnerships and exchange of services. In order to maximize the resources and the minimal staff (at this time, its core is made of four people), they try to organize events that simultaneously reach brands and consumers. “Most importantly, it has to do with addressing the needs that come to us. Consumers who ask us how they can put these things into motion – where to buy, how they can know the things which were ethically produced. Major brands have yet to come to us, marketing-wise we are quite insignificant to attract them, but we have some small and medium brands that tend to have these sustainability concerns in mind, and they ask us if we have a list of companies where they can manufacture things for tens and not hundreds or thousands of dollars, for instance”, she explains. Abiding by this logic, they also work with FIO, an association whose goal is to connect who creates with the one who does, edifying the bridge between designers and producers.
Besides the Swap Market, which runs from consumer to consumer, they have already organized parades and markets with these brands that reach them. The goal is to spread the products, showing that there are options beyond fast fashion. They also organize lectures – “since several heads think better than just one” – and workshops. “Our goal is to have the most common of mortal beings doing their own clothes. Straight from the starting point or having enough knowledge to patch up or transform them. Everything that can extend the useful life of a piece of clothing,” says Salome.
Above all, Fashion Revolution wants the consumer to form an opinion, making choices that are more conscious; one that knows the reason why they buy a particular piece and who understands increasingly better this basic need, the emotional process and the social, politics and ethics stance that comes with dressing the body.