Safia Minney : Since the Rana Plaza building collapse a lot has changed, not enough, but we should remember those who lost their lives, with sadness and anger, at the same time we should celebrate the power of the people that have spectacularly raised awareness, driven campaigns to make us re-think our fashion shopping habits that have reached millions of people. Three years ago who would have imagined how Fashion Revolution and The True Cost movie would galvanize that much interest and action from consumers and businesses? On the environmental sustainability side Greenpeace Detox campaign has forced companies to reduce the most toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of clothing.
But it is not enough and we need to keep the pressure up. H&M and other mainstream fashion companies still haven’t delivered on their promise of factory safety and compliance. Accidents are waiting to happen. The Modern Slavery Act passed in the UK last year, inspired by California’s, will require companies of £36 million turnover per annum to report on what they are doing to eradicate slavery from their supply chains OR tell their customers that they are doing nothing. This creates powerful change in terms of transparency and accountability.
The OECD is launching a pilot initiative this April on due diligence for garment and footwear supply chains that will create a powerful new framework and should also hold companies accountable. There is a shift of thinking in the OECD and IMF that our outdated economic and financial systems must include the ‘externalities’, that social and environmental costs to us as the human race and planet needs to appear on the balance sheet, and that with trade unions having being weakened significantly worldwide, we can no longer pretend that we have a system or process that can deliver democracy. Adam Smith’s invisible hand has truly been bitten off.
My new book ‘Slow Fashion – Aesthetics meets Ethics‘ celebrates a coming of age for ethical fashion, written to celebrate 25 years since I founded People Tree in Japan, but also to celebrate the campaigns that have given birth to heightened consumer awareness that drive change in the fashion industry. A 100% ethical fashion is now available, without compromise to aesthetics. However, one problem concerned me – where it was retailed. Historically a Fair Trade shop lacked the retail WOW factor and didn’t do the product justice, but today there is a growing network of eco-concept stores, owned and produced by individuals from a retail or fashion background, passionate to deliver social change through good retail. Travelling around Europe and Japan for the last 3 years was deeply inspiring visiting incredible eco-concept stores, selling ethical, Fair Trade, vintage fashion and lifestyle product whilst offering organic café, live music, film nights, talks on social and health issues and bicycle repair shop, and attracting new consumers to the ethical movement.
My Slow Fashion book features these eco-concept stores with videos so you visit the stores linked to each page with a QR code.
My next project is ‘Slave to Fashion’ a new book and campaign for the eradication of modern slavery in fashion supply chains. It will look at what the causes of slavery are in the garment industry. Micro documentaries and interviews will tell the stories of men, women and children caught in slavery in the garment industry in Europe and the developing world and show what is happening to liberate them. The campaign will be launched on Kickstarter on April, 19th.
We need to keep the pressure up – we can’t wait for business and government – it’s all about people power.