April 20-26th is Fashion Revolution Week, an opportunity to discuss human rights and environmental issues within the global fashion industry, and to highlight ways that brands and individuals are using fashion as a force for good. However, this year we are faced with unique problems caused by the virus Covid-19. The global pandemic - and subsequent economic fallout - have affected individuals, businesses and entire industries worldwide, and workers in the fashion industry are among the most vulnerable.
The majority of fashion workers already work in unsafe conditions, are paid below a living wage, and don’t receive paid sick leave or severance. When many garment workers in the $750+ billion industry are already so vulnerable, they are positioned to suffer the most from the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus.
IndustriALL, the global trade union which works to give workers around the world a voice, says that millions of garment makers have already lost their jobs as a result of the virus and have no access to social or financial safety nets to help them weather this storm.
Beyond losing their jobs as global supply chains are disrupted and demand drops, many factory workers are not getting paid for work already completed. As large retailers have been forced to close their doors due to lockdowns, many are refusing to pay their bills.
“It’s standard practice for brands not to pay for products until after they’re shipped. When an order is put on hold or canceled, payments are also held or canceled. That leaves suppliers on the hook for both their workers’ salaries and, because they buy their materials outright, for what they owe their own suppliers. Without revenue coming in or much cushion in their budgets, factory owners may be forced to cut jobs.”
~ Vogue Business
The current crisis further illuminates the inequalities that already exist in the global fashion industry. How can we mobilize around this pandemic to bring about much-needed change?
5 Ways to Support the Fashion Revolution During the Covid-19 Crisis
1. Email brands and demand they pay their workers fairly.
The Fashion Revolution is leading the movement to demand that fashion brands honor the orders they have already placed with their suppliers and ensure the workers making their products are protected, supported and paid properly during this crisis.
They have created a letter template and collected email addresses from global fashion brands, so you can send a letter as easy as selecting a retailer from the dropdown, signing your name and clicking “send.”
2. Tell brands to #PAYUP on social media
Remake, a non-profit advocating for a better fashion industry, started an Instagram campaign called #PayUp to demand brands fulfill payments for already-completed orders. Share the hashtag and tag a brand in order to pressure them to do the right thing, and spread the message to your social network in the process.
Change.org has a list of fashion brands that have yet to pay their garment workers.
3. Donate to an advocacy organization
While times are tough financially for so many of us, if you are able, consider donating to nonprofits that are leading that charge for change within the fashion industry. Here are some that we support:
Fashion Revolution - Global leaders in the fashion revolution, with tons of resources on how to help.
Remake - An advocacy group demanding to end fast fashion through education and activism.
AWAJ Foundation – A non-profit organization founded and led by garment workers in Bangladesh that provides support to over 740,000 workers.
The Garment Worker Centre – A non-profit organization and community space in Los Angeles that supports tens of thousands of low paid garment workers, especially immigrant and undocumented workers, women of color, and their families.
GoodWeave International — A non-profit organization working to end forced and child labor in global supply chains.
4. Fight Over-Consumption: Care for and repair your garments and accessories
While mending may not appear to be a revolutionary action, the fast fashion industry exists because of the demand of consumers like you and me. Repairing much-loved items helps to combat over-consumption, and slow down the fast fashion machine.
Not already adept at repairs and care? Check out this guide on repairing clothes, and this one on caring for your shoes and accessories. We also have a care guide to extend the life of your MZ bag here.
Help propel this movement forward by sharing your project with the hashtag #LovedClothesLast.
5. Support small ethical brands
While you might be taking a break from shopping right now (good for you!), if you are looking to invest in an item for your wardrobe, please consider supporting a small/ethical brand in the process. These are the brands fighting to ensure that garment workers, weavers, makers, craftspeople, etc. are earning living wages, have sick leave/health benefits, and work in safe conditions.
This pandemic will be really tough on small businesses and there are some who may not be able to make it through this time — they need our support now more than ever.
Some resources for vetted brands that are making a positive impact:
The global pandemic and its effects on the global fashion industry’s most vulnerable, including factory workers and small brands, can cause a feeling of overwhelm and helplessness. However, there are simple yet powerful ways in which we can combat inequality, demand justice and alter our consumer habits to make fashion a force for positive change. We hope these ideas and resources help you to feel empowered to take action, even while you’re staying at home.
“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to sift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
~ Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize speech