On April 24th 2013, 1129 young garment workers lost their lives in the collapse of Rana Plaza, in Bangladesh. The farm where they worked suddenly broke down, trapping and injuring 2500 more workers. It was one of the major disasters of the fashion industry.
Fast fashion is the term by which we refer to low cost production which emulates luxury brands. Compared to the normal rhytms of launching of fashion collections (spring/summer, autumn/winter), fast fashion companies are able to produce up to 2 “mini-collections” every week. Any side effect? A fast fashion cloth can last – on average- a maximum of 5 weeks in a wardrobe.
How can an industry based on low sale prices, high production amounts and fast production rhythms be sustainable? The collapse of Rana Plaza and the death of hundreds of people unveil the secret: inhuman working hours, poor health condition, no safety and security measures, salaries under the minimum living wages are some of the ingredients of this business model. Around 97% of the fast fashion production is dislocated in underdeveloped countries, where a garment worker receives around 1$ per day.
What is the reason of such inhumanity? To support the interests of the fast fashion giants, in other terms: profit.
Compared to twenty years ago, the consumption of fashion products hasincreased by 400%. What caused such a compulsive behaviour? Fast fashion companies swindle the consumer, they make us believe that we can afford to constantly renew our wardrobes. “Cheap and Chic” sounds like a mantra: why should we buy good quality clothes which won’t be fashionable anymore next year?
Because “cheap and chic” enslaves millions of people, and it somehow makes us slaves, too. It makes us unable to prefer the quality of clothing to its quantity, it deceives us into believing that being appropriate to any situation is just a matter of outfit. And the right outfit is just waiting for us at the store around the corner, at an unbelievably low price.
The fashion industry is the second most polluting sector, just behind the Oil&Gas one. The devasting environmental impact begins in the cotton plantation, where pesticides and chemicals destroy entire ecosystems. Cotton plantations represent 2,4% of the world’s cultivations and they use 25% of the world’s pesticides and 10% of the world’s chemical agents. Along the whole production chain, highly toxical materials are continuously wasted, impacting the surrounding environment, polluting waters, causing enormous environmental and health damages to the population of the affected areas. Moreover, the degradation times of a cloth are immensly long. Producing high volumes of clothing, with unsustainable means, containing highly toxic substances and characterized by short lives, negatively affects the production environment and the final customer.
A catastrophe is often needed to wake up people’s conscience and call for mediatic attention. From the Rana Plaza collapse, the movement Fashion Revolution was born: in 70 countries around the world, the victims of the fast fashion industry are being commemorated every year on the 24th of april, which became the socalled “Fashion Revolution Day”.
Fashion Revolution advocates for the need to change the lie of the land, for both, who produces the clothing and for who wears them. The aim is to rebuild the boundary between fashion and sustainability, return dignity to whom works in the fashion sector, protecting the environment by reducing the impact that clothing production has on our planet. There are uncountable reasons to support Fashion Revolution: to prove that we are responsible and aware consumers, who use their purchasing power to steer the industry towards a more sustainable way of producing, but mainly to show that people’s lives matter more than our outfits, hoping that no more human life will be lost while sewing the next garment to be exhibited in our shop windows.
Flavia Cuniolo, Caterina Laurenzi & Martina Rossi