One year ago today, 1,129 workers were killed when the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed. Some call it an “accident.” But that implies that it was just something that happened. A freak occurrence. That nothing could have been done.
But advocates knew the Bangladesh garment industry was broken even before the collapse. That it was built on shoddy construction, abject poverty wages, sexual harrassment and exploitation. Brands knew this, too. And workers at Rana Plaza knew that it was unsafe to go inside that day. They saw the cracks in the structure–shoddily built, weighed down by groaning generators–and were terrified to go inside. They were forced inside by the factory owners, who lied and said it had been inspected and was found to be safe.
And then it collapsed, suddenly and yet inevitably. The rubble is still there today, strewn with red Joe Fresh jeans. And though some progress has been made, there is still a ways to go. The minimum wage has been almost doubled, but it’s still the lowest wage in the world for garment workers. Over 150 fashion corporations have signed onto the legally binding Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, but many others have signed a toothless, opaque impostor called the Bangladesh Alliance. (Read more about the difference between the two and what has changed in Bangladesh.) Workers feel more empowered, and yet are as fearful as ever of retaliation in the form of assault and even murder.
So what can you do, as just a consumer, to make a difference today? I’ve been talking to advocates and experts about this issue, and I’ve come up with some simple actions you can take to do the right thing when it comes to your fashion:
1. Turn Your Clothes Inside Out
Officially dubbed Fashion Revolution Day, today people around the world — from designers and celebrities, to mainstream retailers and couture houses, from cotton farmers and factory workers, to campaigners, academics, the media and any individual who cares about what they wear — will come together to honor the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster by taking a stand against unethical fashion.
Turn your clothing inside out, take a picture of your tags and tag it with #fashionrevolution #insideout #whomadesyourclothes and @fash_rev on Instagram. (Tag @ABoyNamedSue to be entered to win a prize!) And whenever someone tries to helpfully inform you that your entire outfit is showing its seams, take the opportunity to educate them.
2. Snag the Latest Trend
Spread the message by rocking of these limited edition organic FRD T-shirts designed by Michael Stars and produced by Under the Canopy. The tees are made at a geothermal/solar powered factory in the US, using super soft, high quality 100% certified organic cotton and patented chemical-free, seaweed-based dyes. Proceeds will go to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, honoring the victims and survivors. Buy one at Modaavanti or Shopethica.
Or, donate straight to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund. The fund will make payments to the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster, their families and dependents. A local bank designated to receive transfers from the Trust Fund will provide payments directly to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. 100% of the funds raised will be donated to the Trust.
4. Name and Shame
You know who should be completely ashamed of themselves? The companies who were having their clothing manufactured in the Rana factory who haven’t paid into the survivor’s fund, or who have made a paltry donation and still owe much more. Tweet, Facebook, email and call these companies to make them feel the heat:
Or stop by their store! In New York, I know that some activists will be outside the Children’s Place in Union Square protesting the fact that the CEO Jane Elfers earns $17 million a year, but can’t seem to spare more than $450,000 to the fund. Coward.
5. Applaud the Ones That Are Trying
Thank the stores that did sign the Accord (and keep shopping there!). A short list of notables includes:
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- American Eagle Outfitters
- Fruit of the Loom
- PVH (owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein)
- Scoop NYC
- Inditex (Zara)
6. Go Party
With your clothes inside out, grab your vegetable-tanned clutch, put on your vegan heels, and head out to a party at one of these locations:
NEW YORK CITY
The Breezeway at Fashion Institute of Technology
227 W. 27th Street
New York NY 10001
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET
The Corporate Social Responsibility Club of FIT, in collaboration with A. Bernadette, will host a daylong #INSIDEOUT photo booth and flea market event to raise awareness for Fashion Revolution Day, while asking students, professors, and staff, “who made your clothes?”
The303 at Louie and Chan
303 Broome St.
New York, NY 10002
6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET
Sumzine and Helpsy are starting a fashion revolution—with a little help from their friends Prince Language and Jenny Mortsell—in an event sponsored by Louie and Chan, Eileen Fisher, Loomstate, Freedom of Animals, Indego Africa, and Nettie Kent.
158 Fifth Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. ET
Join us for cocktails to celebrate ethical fashion with Bhoomki Boutique on Fashion Revolution Day.
2312 North Clifton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614
8 p.m. to 10 p.m. CT
DePaul University’s Fair Trade Committee will host a fashion show on Fashion Revolution Day, a day to mark the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse. The event will end with a presentation on the purpose and importance ethical consumption.
SoMa StrEat Food Park
428 11th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
5 p.m. to 9 p.m. PT
Urban Air Market and Fashion Revolution Day U.S.A. are joining forces to promote positive change in the fashion industry. This outdoor sustainable pop-up will connect attendees to local makers specializing in unique apparel, accessories, and home goods. In addition, attendees will be able to sample bites from local food vendors, enjoy live musical performances and sip the local wines and brews of the beer garden.
900 East 1st St. #307
Los Angeles CA, 90012
7 p.m. to 10 p.m. PT
Taryn Hipwell of EcoDivas has partnered with Fashion Revolution Day U.S.A. for a Short & Sizzles (Film) Festival to remember the victims of the garment factory negligence to promote positive change and educate people about social and environmental practices in the fashion industry.
Find a complete list of global events here.
7. Watch a Movie
Watch the 5-minute documentary ‘The Deadly Cost of Fashion” by The New York Times.
Read and watch this multimedia, 30-minute interactive by The Guardian.
8. Read a Book
Read any of these acclaimed books:
- To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle
- Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline
- Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with your Wardrobe by Greta Eagan