Fashion Revolution! Who made my clothes?

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Wednesday 22 April 2020

20th – 26th April is Fashion Revolution week. Our team caught up with Fashion Revolution Scotland volunteer and University of St Andrews alumni, Karyn Stewart, to ask her all about it…

Karyn in her favourite dungarees

Hi Karyn! Please tell us a bit about yourself

I’m an avid sewer and I have always enjoyed making stuff with my hands. I had debated studying costume design when applying to university but decided to choose my other love of Geography and I’m very glad I did. In 2016 in my third year when I was trying to decide what to write my dissertation on, I had studied a great module in Sustainable Development that year with Dr Louise Reid on Frontiers in sustainability research: Do good lives cost the earth? Which sparked my interest into how our behaviours and the way we live our lives impacts the environment. I ended up watching The True Cost documentary one night and realised the sheer scale and complexity of the issues in the fashion industry, both the environmental and human cost that goes into making the clothes we wear. I was shocked that I hadn’t known anything about this, so from that day onwards I knew that I was going to be a fashion activist, because this message needed to be shared if we were going to be able to make a change in this massive global industry. I wrote my dissertation on the motivations for students to shop second-hand for clothing and the role these clothes can have in our creation of identity. I decided to go to do a Master of Research in Critical Human Geographies at the University of Exeter, where I continued to look at material culture and creative methods in research and activism. I’m now back in Scotland and I am currently doing an internship with Zero Waste Scotland.

So, what is Fashion Revolution and how did you become involved?

Fashion Revolution is a global movement which involves everyone from citizens, designers, academics, those who work in the fashion industry. We believe in a fashion industry that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure. We work throughout the year with events and campaigns. Fashion Revolution Week happens every April to mark the anniversary of the devastating Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed 1138 people and injured many more on 24th April 2013. That is the day Fashion Revolution was born. During this week we ask people to ask brands #whomademyclothes, brands and producers are encouraged to respond with the hashtag #imadeyourclothes and to demonstrate transparency in their supply chain.
I became aware of Fashion Revolution whilst writing my dissertation and decided to get involved. I was a student ambassador in 2018 and hosted some events in St Andrews. When I moved back to Scotland last September, I decided to get involved in the Scotland team. We are an amazing group of people from all over the country who work together throughout the year to share the Fashion Revolution message in Scotland. We had planned a whole host of great events across Scotland for Fashion Revolution Week, we have worked hard to move all these events online in light of COVID-19 so now it doesn’t matter where you are you can join in!

What is your favourite item of clothing?

My favourite item of clothing is a vintage 60s/70s red Graham Tiso’s outdoor jacket I found in a charity shop in Stockbridge in Edinburgh. I love second-hand clothes as they have always feel like they have a story to tell. It has great pockets and goes with most things. I bought it in my first year of university and so I feel it holds a lot of fond memories.
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Why should people care who made their clothes?
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It’s important to question brands #whomademyclothes to make sure the fashion industry recognises the value and work of the people who make our garments, so they can have decent work in safe, clean and fair opportunities.

These are weird and uncertain times for us all. Fashion remains to be an inspiration, even if it is just to get dressed up to sit in the house. It doesn’t matter if you are the biggest fashionista or just wear whatever you pull out your wardrobe each day, we all wear clothes so if you start to think about what is in your wardrobe you are a fashion decision maker and have the power to make a difference.
Yet, the fashion industry still has major impacts on both people and planet. Many garment workers and those doing online distribution are still going to work without proper protection in these times of COVID-19, in some cases making PPE themselves. Many brands have also left suppliers flat without paying for their orders, putting the jobs of those most vulnerable at risk.

How do we get involved?

Although we are stuck inside there is still a range of action we can take. Some of us have time around the house which we wouldn’t normally have, where we might use this to engage with our clothes by taking the time to edit our wardrobes or to get on with a repair pile. The more people who ask brands #whomademyclothes the more the message is amplified, and brands recognise that we demand transparency in the supply chain. So, take a photo with your favourite item of clothing and tag the brand to ask #whomademyclothes. You can also post the letter below to your social media pages and tag brands. There are loads of events happening online around the world which you can join, so check out the Fashion Revolution Scotland page and the Fashion Revolution website to find out more: fashionrevolution.org

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