INTERVIEW WITH LAURA FRANCOIS, FASHION REVOLUTION SINGAPORE
On 24th April 2013 the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed and shook the fashion world. 1138 people were killed, and many more were injured.
Today, Fashion Revolution kick off their annual #whomademyclothes campaign - a week that encourages millions of people to ask brands ‘Who Made my Clothes’ and demand for greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.
We caught up with Laura Francois, Country Coordinator for Fashion Revolution Week in Singapore, to discuss why we need a fashion revolution and how you can get involved to support this global movement.
And if you're looking to build a more ethical wardrobe, wanting to know how to extend the life of your current clothes or looking for the best app to help you shop more consciously - Laura gives us her top tips!
Hi Laura! We've been told the that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, and when it comes to shopping and wearing clothes, our actions can change everything! But what are the other reasons for needing a Fashion Revolution?
Turns out it’s not not actually the second largest (though the media really bought that stat!), but one of the most polluting! The textile industry was ranked as second, and fashion takes up a big chunk of textile but not all.
There is no one reason for needing a revolution. Fashion belongs to a system that is related to so many diverse and complex issues. Not only is fashion one of the largest polluters of our precious environment, it abuses some of the most basic human rights to many people worldwide. We need to rethink the way we engage with those working along the entire supply chain and revolutionize the way we think about the rate at which we produce, and the methods we are using.
What is the #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign all about, and how can we get involved?
Being curious about the provenance of the things you wear can truly create change in the world! The campaign is about harnessing that curiosity, asking ‘Who Made My Clothes’ to your favourite brand, finding out and then ultimately doing something about it. It’s easy! Simply snap a selfie showing the tag of the brand you’re wearing, tag them on social media and #WhoMadeMyClothes.
Over the last 5 years, many big brands have come forward and responded. Ultimately, we’re holding brands accountable for those who work from the cotton fields to the cutting rooms, demanding for greater transparency throughout the supply chain. It’s an easy way to take a stand for all those who make our clothes, showing brands that we, as consumers, care. Last year two million people across the world got involved. Over 100,000 people used social media to ask the brands they wear #whomademyclothes
What's new this year for Fashion Revolution?
It’s our fifth year anniversary, we have a lot to celebrate and a lot of work to look forward to! Brands are starting to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and clear up their supply chain. Over 70 brands and suppliers have committed to Detox by 2020 and remove harmful chemicals from their supply chains. Combined, these brands account for 15 percent of global textile production.
Over 100 brands have committed to working towards a circular fashion system. But our landfills still overflow with clothes, the industry continues to get bigger and move faster. We still buy more clothes than ever before and wear them for half as long as we used to.
How can we find out more about Fashion Revolution Day 2018 and the events happening in Singapore?
Check out Facebook page of course! Fashion Revolution SG
What are your thoughts about the industry’s view on sustainability, do you think the way it thinks is ?
There is lots of room for innovation in the fashion space. I don’t think ‘sustainability’ should be the end goal anymore. Why try sustaining our current badly damaged systems? New models like regeneration and shared economies are the way forward in many ways. These new ways of thinking can feel risky and daunting, it truly turns the whole idea of fashion on it’s head!
But I think the industry has started to slowly foster the sense of urgency in needing solutions to this big problem. It’s not easy to ‘do it right’. What’s important is to genuinely keep trying (emphasis on genuinely, especially with so much ‘greenwashing’ in the mix!).
And who's doing it right? What or who are your fave designers, brands or recent campaigns that are shattering the status quo?
I know I should have favourite designers or brands, but the truth is, my favourite is to turn to the secondhand market. If I could, I would only buy secondhand clothing, vintage and all things perfectly old and beautiful! We have so much clothing on the planet already, and trends come back and back again!
That being said, I love small, homegrown projects that are trying something different. Becoming more ‘sustainable’ is a process, and no one has it ‘right’ yet. But so many brands are putting in the work to create pieces that challenge the status quo. Zero Waste Daniel in NYC, using offcuts to create masterpieces is one of my fav!
So how did you get involved in Fashion Revolution?
I used to run tie dye workshops in my home town of Montreal to give life to people's used socks and underwear! I knew I wanted to be a part of the global movement after finishing an education program in Delhi and seeing some of the clothing production sites. The cause was the perfect intersection of environmental sustainability, women’s rights and disruptive design! I quickly moved to Malaysia to start digging into the problem firsthand. That’s when I joined Fashion Revolution!
What are your top tips to start building a more responsible and ethical wardrobe?
Do you need it? If so, can you borrow it? If not, can you find it secondhand? If not, can you buy it from a brand you can trust? Ask yourself the questions each and every time you’re contemplating a purchase. You’ll notice that most of the time, we don’t even really need it!
It’s not about only wearing mono colours and minimal design, fashion should still be about having fun and expressing yourself! Sharing your clothes, buying secondhand or hunting for bespoke treasures are easy ways to achieve that without harming the planet. What you have in your wardrobe currently is the best place to start.
Do you have any tips for extending the life of your clothes?
Material is everything. Invest in the life of your clothing by making sure you are buying material that won’t fail you. Also, try reducing how much you do laundry. It can dramatically extend the life of your wardrobe and avoid micro plastics from entering our oceans as well!
What are your favourite apps and website for finding out if a brands products are made ethically and safely?
The HIGG Index (Sustainable Apparel Coalition) provides a pretty nifty Excel file (but don’t anticipate anything beautiful to look at…you still need to dig around the spreadsheet).
Check out Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index! It ranks brands and lets you decide for yourself where you want to spend your money.
The Good On You app works well too!
And lastly - what's your favourite piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
My vintage 1975 orange linen dress! But I never wear it. I need to go out more often.
Hunter + Boo’s clothing is produced in a small factory which employs men and women who work in a safe, respectful environment and who are paid a fair and proper wage for everything they do. No children are employed in the manufacturing process, either directly or indirectly. To find out more about Hunter+Boo's social responsibility, click here.