April 18th-24th is Fashion Revolution Week. What is fashion revolution you ask? It is a global movement that calls for more transparency in the fashion industry. We want to know who made our clothes because the commodity form has made it too easy for us to separate human labour from human consumption. Clothes used to be tailor made for our bodies. We would sew our own clothes or someone would make them for us. Today, we fit ourselves into what exists on the shelves and racks. I’m a medium here, an X-large over there. We have become lost in the world of consumption and so have the people who make our clothes. What does this have to do with hockey? Well, if you wear clothes or have hockey apparel, Fashion Revolution Week applies to you.
Fast fashion is an industry predicated on quantity over quality. Four seasons of fashion have multiplied into fashion obsolescence. Fast fashion gives us the ability to buy LOTS of clothes for next to nothing and it seems like a win-win, but it also changes the way we, as consumers, shop. “According to the Council for Textile Recycling, Americans generate 21 billion pounds of textile waste per year, throwing away 85% of the items they purchased.” The Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 shone a necessary light on the working conditions of the consumer fashion industry. Over 1,100 people were killed and hundreds more were injured when the eight-story factory crumbled. The Canadian brand Joe Fresh and America’s JC Penney were two of the more recognizable brands being manufactured at Rana Plaza. The anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster became Fashion Revolution Day two years ago, and this year it becomes Fashion Revolution week.
Carry Somers, the creator of Fashion Revolution, describes the fashion industry as “opaque, exploitative and environmentally damaging.” It is important to note that that critique comes from someone working inside the fashion industry. She explains that change is happening but it is too slow. While some brands are starting to disclose more information about the manufacturing process, it is far from an industry requirement, none of the major brands are publishing information about their suppliers (e.g. Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci etc.), and, perhaps even worse, many brands have no idea where their clothes come from or who is making them. Behind the Barcode Fashion reported that in 2015, 91% of brands had no idea where their raw materials were coming from.
Unfortunately, when we consider our clothing disposable, so too are the people who make them. And, when we don’t care to ask what goes into our clothes and who makes them we become complicit in any injustices that may take place along the production line. We can see this trend in sports and exercise as well. Special nights are marked by special jerseys. Third jerseys and vintage jerseys help boost sales but neither of them are necessary. All of the big hockey manufacturers make clothing for going to the rink, playing at the rink, and for hanging out in the bar after the game. In other words, hockey players should also be asking #WhoMadeMyClothes just as much as any fashionista.
As Fashion Revolution explains, “Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone somewhere is paying”:
The people who make our clothes are hidden. We don’t know who makes our clothes. And they don’t know who buys the clothes they make. We need to reconnect these broken links because when we buy a product, we also buy a chain of value and relationships.
Here are some facts that Fashion Revolution highlights:
- Fashion is now one of the most globalized industries. A single product may span multiple continents before reaching the shop floor. We need to rethink how the industry works. We need to rethink the model.
- Growing the fibres for our clothes, processing, dyeing and treating garments requires a cocktail of chemicals, some known to be toxic. Cotton farming uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides.
- In the landfill, the decomposing clothing releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. And even before clothes reach stores, damaged products and rolls of branded or recognizable fabrics are slashed, landfilled and incinerated.
- In Bangladesh, it’s estimated that the minimum wage only covers 60% of the cost of living in a slum. Low wages keep garment workers in a cycle of poverty and add to the press to work long overtime hours, which impacts on their health and safety, as well as the quality of clothes.
So let’s support Fashion Revolution week by putting a hockey spin on it. Let’s ask manufacturers such as Bauer, Reebok, Warrior, Gongshow, Sauce and BarDown one very simple question: #WhoMadeMyClothes. If “fashion is our chosen skin” and you wear it to do your chosen sport/activity, what value chain and relationships are you also supporting? To care about who makes your clothes and where they are made is to realize that your clothes are more than just materials – they are a product of human labour, human rights, (in)equality, and values.
Please join me in asking #WhoMadeMyClothes this week with your favourite hockey attire and jerseys. Show us your label and then tweet them with the hashtag or post them on Instagram.
Here are a few of my #WhoMadeMyClothes pictures (notice none of them were made in hockey-centric countries):