On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 1,133 and injuring over 2,500. It is considered one of the deadliest garment factory accidents in history. Fashion Revolution Day, celebrated on April 24, emerged from this tragedy to honor those lost in the collapse and to shed light on how the fashion industry can elevate to an ethical and sustainable future. We spoke with this year’s U.S. Chair, Zady co-founders Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi, about the new #whomademyclothes social media campaign, how to shop for ethical clothes and what’s on the docket this year.
theFashionSpot: For those who don’t know, what is Fashion Revolution Day exactly?
Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi: FRD is a global grassroots campaign to turn a mirror to the fashion industry. In the rush to globalization, the industry has lost its way. It’s now the second greatest polluter (second only to oil) and one in six people in the world work in the industry hidden in the shadows. This hidden system, where even 65% of brands don’t know where their production has taken place, has led to devastating results, including the Rana Plaza building collapse.
tFS: Why were you selected as the U.S. Chair of Fashion Revolution Day?
MB and SD: I believe we were chosen because Zady as a brand has stood from day one for transparency. We tell the story behind all the products we carry and for our own collection, we are setting a new standard for transparency through the entire product supply chain, from farm, washing, spinning, knitting, dyeing through to final cut and sew. It’s only with this level of transparency that we can begin to turn this ship around.
tFS: What events do you have lined up for the U.S. in conjunction with FRD?
MB and SD: There are events taking place across the country from San Francisco to Minneapolis to right here in New York. The New York events begin with Earth Day on Sunday, April 19, where we will be out at Union Square from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. discussing the connection between our clothing and the environment. It’s free and open to the public. Then there will be a public event on April 23 in partnership with the Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator with a screening of the film Traceable, which will be followed with an exciting panel discussion from people who have been working in the field tackling the labor issues. We’ll also be partnering with FIT on an invite-only event on April 21 that will bring together leaders in the fashion space to talk about sustainability and the future of fashion.
tFS: How can people celebrate at home?
MB and SD: Easy! On FDR, take a picture of your clothes inside-out, exposing the brand. Tag that brand on social media and ask the question #whomademyclothes? And then, get all your friends to do the same. As consumers, we’re remarkably powerful, and this little act collectively will have an enormous impact.
tFS: What are some of the brands and retailers involved in FDR?
MB and SD: In addition to Zady, we have Eileen Fisher, Maiyet, Patagonia and American Apparel participating. Of course, we’d like all brands and retailers to get on board, and the more we as consumers show that we care, the more brands will care too.
tFS: How can we tell when a garment or accessory is ethically made?
MB and SD: Unless you’re buying at a place like Zady, it’s currently very hard. So, the first thing to do is to just start looking at tags. Before buying anything, put the garment inside out. Check to see that the contents come from natural materials, not ones that are derived from petroleum. Take a look at the seams. Are they still intact? When brands cut quality and just focus on cost, you can see it in the garment. When they’re doing that they’re also not likely to be paying much attention to their workers. Finally, the most ethical thing you can do is buy things that you truly love. With fast fashion we tend to be told what is “on trend,” but all of that is manufactured. Buy what you love, where it well, you’ll end up buying fewer but better. That alone is a great start. Then it’s our responsibility to create products that are truly sustainable all the way through the production chain.