When Brands Respond To 'Who Made my Clothes?'


| Fashion shouldn't cost people in poverty their lives. We want fairtrade, ethical and sustainable clothes, so we ask a simple question.


Each year, during Fashion Revolution Week, consumers are encouraged to ask fashion brands, 'Who Made My Clothes?', in an effort to increase transparency in the industry, and shining a light on the lives of garment workers around the world. The hashtag (#whomademyclothes) has been used nearly 10 million times in over 100 countries, and thought leaders, influencers, industry experts and more all take part in the campaign, but what happens when the brands respond to the question? Does this campaign make fast fashion's worst offenders change their ways?


Read more: A New Manifesto For A Better Fashion Industry


Fashion Revolution's main goal is transparency, as they believe that this will reveal the fashion industry’s problems and identify potential solutions so that we can all better understand how to change it.

To demonstrate the impact of 5 years of campaigning, they have released the Fashion Transparency Index, which reports how much information 150 of the biggest global fashion brands are sharing about their policies, procedures and impacts, score on a scale of 0%(disclosing no supply chain information) 100% (full transparency). Here are the key stats from 2018's report:

  • Average increase in transparency across all brands is 5%
  • 12% brands scored less than 3%
  • Only 28% of brands scored higher than 31%
  • No brands scored more than 60%
  • The highest scores were from Adidas and Reebok
  • The lowest scores were from Dior, Longchamp and Max Mara

So, it seems that while more and more people and companies are taking part in the Fashion Revolution movement, progress towards more transparent supply chains in fashion has been minimal, and that luxury labels will be perhaps the hardest to crack.

As well as the social media campaign, and official brand auditing, Fashion Revolution pushes ethical fashion activists to email the brands they shop from directly to demand answers. Blogger The Pretty and The Kitsch published some of the email answers she received after Fashion Revolution week, including:

  • Walmart: "We care about the men and women in our supply chain, and Walmart’s Standards for Suppliers lists our social and environmental expectations for our suppliers, including addressing working conditions, voluntary labor, pay, the cultivation of a safe and healthy work environment and freedom of association. Our Standards specifically state that suppliers provide compensation, benefits, working hours, breaks, rest days, holidays and leave that comply with legal requirements and applicable agreements, as well as help workers understand these terms. We also state that suppliers cannot make illegal or excessive wage deductions, withhold wages, delay wage payments or pay wages irregularly."

  • Nordstrom: "Though we were not in any of the factories affected by the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, we made the decision in the wake of that tragedy to become members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. We felt the work of the Alliance and the approach they decided to take made the most sense for our business. Through the Alliance, we believe important progress has been made, but we know that maintaining and continuing to improve worker safety is a long term effort."

  • Primark: "Prior to the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, ensuring buildings were structurally sound was the responsibility of factory owners. It was not a formal part of auditing of suppliers facilities by brands and retailers. Since the disaster, Primark has been working alongside other brands, trade unions and NGOs in Bangladesh through the Accord on Fire and Building Safety to improve the structural integrity of factories. In June 2017 Primark signed the 2018 Transition Accord, reaffirming Primark’s commitment to collaborate with other brands, factory owners, NGOs, trade unions and the Government of Bangladesh to bring about sustainable positive change in the Bangladeshi garment industry.

  • Boohoo: "Operations procedures and policies must be followed and adhered to by all suppliers. We are dedicated to working with our suppliers to help promote better working standards for the future and we hope to lead the way in encouraging open and transparent supply chain operations. Boohoo is a member of SEDEX, a global organisation with the world’s largest collaborative platform for sharing responsible sourcing data on supply chains."

  • Inditex (Zara): "As people and the environment are at the center of our decision-making with the aim of creating value beyond profit, we have developed the highest standards of sustainability and the strictest codes of conduct that are regarded by many as industry-leading. All our suppliers and manufacturers all over the world are required to follow our Code of Conduct, which applies the highest standards for the protection of human rights and the promotion of international labour rights, health and safety, and environmental aspects. The Code applies not only to suppliers but all their facilities all the way down to the last production unit – through our traceability systems, we know exactly how our products are made and where they come from."

And the non-existant (these brands did not respond):

  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Tommy Hilfger
  • Calvin Klein
  • Michael Kors
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Macy’s
  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Adidas
  • Levi Strauss & Co
  • American Eagle

In this article on Forbes, some of the best responses to #whomademyclothes were published, including Arket, who implemented impressive new clothing tags with fully traceable origins. On oxford shirt's label read:

‘Fabric: Cotton Farmed in San Joaquin Valley, USA. Cotton carded and spun in Turkoglu-Kahramanmaras, Turkey. Yarn twisted and dyed in Ronfe Portugal. Fabric woven and finished in Ronfe, Portugal. Buttons: Mother of Pearl from Makassar, Indonesia. Button produced in Bergamo, Italy. Sewing Thread: Polyester from India. Thread spun in Romania. Hangtag: Paper pulp and hangtag produced in Dongguan, China. Polyester produced, spun and twisted to string in Dongguan, China. Care Label: Polyester, spun, woven and printed in Dongguan, China. Main Label: Polyester, spun and woven in Dongguan, China. Garment construction: Cut, sewn, trimmed, washed and packed in Felgueiras, Portugal. Packaging: Plastic from the UK, bag made in Vojens, Denmark. Storage & shipping: Stored in and shipped from Tallinn, Estonia Shipped in carton boxes made in Värnamo, Sweden.'

There is a big climb ahead if the world's top fashion brands are to share all about the people, places and processes that make their clothes. But consumers have the power of the pound, and it shouldn't be underestimated how much brands take notice of changes in customer values, so we must keep asking that question, but perhaps in more creative ways, and on a much bigger scale, than ever before.

"Keep asking #whomademyclothes to encourage greater transparency from the brands you wear. Some brands won’t answer at all. Some might tell you where your clothes were made but not who made them. Some will direct you to their corporate social responsibility policy. Only a few pioneers will show that they know something about the people who make their clothes. If a brand doesn’t respond, keep asking. Our power is in persistence."

Find out more at http://www.fashionrevolution.org


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Ruth MacGilp is an award​-winning blogger and freelance writer with a focus on ethical and sustainable fashion.
Edinburgh Website