This guest blog was researched and written by Railway Gardens volunteer Nick. Thanks Nick!
On and off the catwalk, clothing and fashion are a fundamental part of human society. Our clothes are a form of self expression, a signifier of community, an artistic canvas, a way of keeping warm in winter, and so much more besides.
But very rarely do we control how they are made. We may not even know where or how they are made: whether the makers are given fair pay and comfortable working conditions or forced into cramped sweatshops for minimal pay.
Enter: Fashion Revolution. In a world in which fast fashion outlets like Shein dump their unsold clothes in Chile’s Atacama Desert, and where workers have been killed in factory fires, Fashion Revolution is demanding full-scale fashion industry reform.
Inspired by the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, the movement is dedicated to reforming the fashion industry. Their manifesto is made up of ten demands, focusing on the rights of workers and consumers, as well as on fashion’s ecological and cultural impact. This is to ensure that the fashion industry is better for both the people and the planet.
The first five tenets of the manifesto call for fashion to be made by well-paid workers in comfortable and humane working environments; allowing those workers to unionise and negotiate better conditions whenever and wherever needed; making clothing via eco-friendly and sustainable methods bolstered by ethical manufacturing standards; enshrining cultural
appreciation and artisan celebration at every stage of the manufacturing process; and ensuring
inclusivity and diversity every step of the way.
This focuses the movement on community. Everyone wears clothes, regardless of “race, class, gender, age, shape or ability.” Asking that everyone enjoys making and wearing clothes should not be as revolutionary and radical as it is.
However, fashion has historically excluded fat and disabled people, and often still does. So, although society is more inclusive now than it ever has been, the need to push for inclusivity and diversity among fashion producers is more vital than ever.
But there is also a desperate need to ensure the industry is fair to its workers. The Rana Plaza disaster and other tragedies like it were only possible due to criminal neglect by manufacturers. Allowing workers to unionise and negotiate better working conditions will help ensure such tragedies never occur again. Ensuring cultural appreciation and celebrating artisans will mean more creative choices of clothing are on offer for the consumers. Diversity and inclusivity at every stage will also mean more options for every kind of consumer, which will also improve profits for the fashion labels.
The rest of the manifesto focuses on transparency, and ensuring the fashion industry improves its relationship with the planet. Dumping unsold clothes in a desert is flagrant act of pollution. Consumers and creators alike deserve to know, and have a say in, where their old or unsold clothes end up. On top of this, clothing materials may not be eco friendly or sustainably produced. The dyes and fibres being used can end up in rivers and water tables, polluting the drinking water for local communities. Consumers deserve to know what goes into the clothes they wear, how those materials are made, and the impact of the materials on the environment. But this can’t happen unless fashion becomes completely transparent at every stage, disclosing what goes on in the manufacture, sale, and disposal of clothing.
Here at Railway Gardens, we fully support Fashion Revolution in the achievement of these goals. To show our support, and raise awareness of Fashion Revolution and their manifesto, we are working with our local community by holding a clothes swap on Saturday April 29th for Fashion Revolution Week.
Fashion Revolution Week 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster. It is a week of action on a global scale aimed at raising awareness of Fashion Revolution’s goals. Events taking place during this year’s Fashion Revolution Week include the Good Clothes Fair Pay March in the Netherlands; a summit of supply chain leaders in Berlin; clothing repair and upcycling workshops; an art exhibition made of discarded clothes called Discarded in Manchester, England; and clothes swaps all over the world – like ours here in Cardiff.
As the name suggests, a clothes swap involves swapping pre-loved clothes. It’s as simple as that. But even this is a revolutionary act. Swapping clothes keeps unwanted ones out of landfill, gives them a new lease on life, and helps people express themselves.
If you are experimenting with your gender presentation, it can be very hard to buy new clothes. The same goes for buying clothes if you are struggling with weight issues, or have a disability. But swapping clothes helps negate this problem. You may find something you like that fits, and you’re doing someone else a favour by taking it off them. Best of all, you’ll be getting it either very cheaply or even for free. Clothes shops and their fitting rooms may not always be accessible, so swapping clothes opens the door to clothes that may previously have been inaccessible.
On top of this, a clothes swap also helps bring local communities together. Everyone attending will meet new people, and get to witness each other’s joy in exploring new clothing styles. It will also raise awareness of Fashion Revolution, their manifesto, and their impact on the world.
How will our clothes swap work?
It’s simple, free, and everyone is welcome. You don’t need to register but if you like to receive email reminders before events then you can sign up here.
Step 1: Take a look through your wardrobe to decide which clothes you want to swap. Make sure they’re clean and ready for swapping.
Step 2: Bring them along to Railway Gardens on Saturday 29th April, between 10am and 11am.
Step 3: Swap! Swapping will begin at 11am and continue until 1pm. We’re not using tokens or any other system at this event as we’re keen for everyone to be able to take part and for all the clothes to find a new home.
How can I help make the clothes swap a success?
Please join us on the day but also tell others about it, or bring them along with you! You can also help us by sharing our posts on twitter, instagram, or facebook. Finally, we still need a few more volunteers to help it all run smoothly. Please email Julia, the Railway Gardens community coordinator, if you can help.