The fashion industry needs real change
A new and sustainable system must be built that will benefit all
Brands must stop waiting on each other to make the first move
As many of us are getting to grips with the ‘new normal’ and gearing up for the world to re-open we all know that the global pandemic has brought to attention many systems within the industry that simply do not work anymore. A fashion revolution must happen and brands through creativity, manufacturing and source bases must take responsibility for their actions and move from constant discussions on the issues to actually doing the work now.
The fashion industry was built on systems that benefited few whilst those who actually did the work received little to no credit. The reality of now is, how life was viewed before will undoubtedly no longer be the same. Things have changed and everyone must move with this change if they have any hopes beyond survival.
Firstly, transparency and accountability need to be at the forefront of every brands identity, as consumerism has shifted to more conscious buying, customers want to know not only where their clothes come from but also who actually made their clothes. What conditions where they made in? How were the raw materials sourced? These are the questions many people are now thinking about as they have become aware of what has been going on – whether for selfish or selfless reasons such awareness means brands need to keep this in mind as many people are now bold enough to call them out.
The lack of respect for culture and heritage has shown that many brands refuse to acknowledge let alone honour the artisans or group of people that have inspired their collections meaning intellectual theft of identity has been taken away from those who have long since been proud of things that to some have been passed down for generations. Not giving their due diligence means brands have not shown transparency in what goes into their work. Rather, they should focus on establishing collaborative work by coming together and celebrating the rich and diverse cultures giving light to those that may otherwise not be seen.
From conception to creation to the catwalk, the fashion industry must produce dignified work. One that is honest throughout the whole supply chain and adds a value at every point. From farmers that cultivate the cotton crops to the female factory workers, fair and equal pay must be provided not just to the creative directors and models. These people have lives outside work and families too that need to be considered. 80% of factory workers are women and rights must be established that protects them from sexual violence in the workplace. If the industry is going to stand for animal rights, they must also stand for human rights especially in the countries the lack policies and unions. The must stop taking advantage of people just because money has to be made. The lives of those that work for them regardless of where in the world they are must be valued.
Fashion has always been a means of expression for many. However, over the years the freedom to speak up without fear has been restricted. This needs to stop, as fashion has always been dictated by the changing times whether it was the rebellious punk culture of the 60’s or even the second world war birthing mass production and ready to wear.
The industry needs to think in the circular way, how can they stop unnecessarily destroying or discarding items? Burning up unsold items at the end of the year because certain brands do not want to sell at a discount should not be a long-term habit and it is far from sustainable. Brands need to take more time at deciding the quantities they produce by using data analytics to read the market and give consumers what they want and will buy.
Lastly success must not simply be put down to profits and sales. The industry must encourage brands to look at their core and ask themselves difficult questions about their identity and what they really want to offer. With so many things coming into play, are they thinking about the customer throughout alongside their impact on the environment and their employees?
Changes must be made internally and externally. The discussions that have been held have been repetitive, more than enough letters have been written. It is time for the fashion industry to put their talking to action and actually do what they have said they will. Brands must stop looking at one another to make the first move and be the change that they want to see. Clothes will always be worn but how they are made, who they are made by and the impact they have on the world we live in is far more important.
I encourage you to take a moment and read The Fashion Revolution which this piece was inspired by at fashionrevolution.org
Author: Mayward Martindale