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By Amy Loder

It’s official. Every time I shop for clothes, I suffer from fashion overwhelm.

It means that I am buying less these days. Even though I am buried in options, I feel paralyzed from trying to unclothe the production practices of the different fashion brands. I want brand transparency, and I want to know more about the people who cut the fabric and stitch my garments.

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As a former fashion industry professional, I pay close attention to fashion-related headlines. Recently, there have been more headlines about the negative environmental and human rights impacts of ‘fast fashion.’ While it is sad to read about factory fires, deaths, rising cancer levels and alarming water pollution levels, it is also necessary to pay attention if we want to see the fashion industry change for good.

The event that placed a permanent spotlight on the fashion industry happened at Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza garment factory. On April 24, 2013 an eight-story building collapsed, killing 1,100 garment factory employees. While Rana Plaza wasn’t fashion’s first garment factory tragedy, it was the largest and provided tangible evidence that the fashion industry has a systemic problem.

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Rana Plaza catalyzed an international conversation about the fashion industry’s impact on human rights and our environment. Three years later, terms like worker rights, living wage, fair-trade, supply chain, transparency and sustainability are at the forefront of conversations in the fashion industry, and they are very familiar to clothing consumers like you and me.

Dig in and discover more

If you’re interested to learn more about ethical, sustainable fashion, April is a great month to get started!

Begin with a few websites

  • World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO)
    A global network of organizations representing the Fair Trade supply chain
  • The Truth Behind the Barcode
    A comprehensive annual report that grades major fashion brands on their production transparency and traceability, policies, worker rights, wages and use of child labor.
  • The Clean Clothes Campaign
    Dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries.
  • DC EcoWomen’s Eco-fashion Pinterest Board
    Reflect on the outside what you value on the inside!

Follow DC EcoWomen’s board Lifestyle: Eco-Wardrobe on Pinterest.

If you’re looking to dig deeper here are some other ways to up your fashion industry knowledge and clothing shopping skills:

Read

  1. Safia Minney. Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics
  2. Lucy Siegle. To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?”
  3. Elisabeth Cline. Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

Watch

  • The True Cost | A Documentary Film
    At 92 minutes, it’s a quick watch. This is the best introduction to the fashion industry and its current production practices that I’ve ever seen. It’s informative, moving and downright accurate.
  • NPR  |  The World Behind a Simple Shirt in 5 Chapters
    Alex Bloomberg of Planet Money tells the story of how an average t-shirt is made. He takes you on a global journey – detailing each step of the design and production process.
  • Changing the world through fashion| Eva Kruse at TEDxCopenhagen
    Eva Kruse is CEO and President of Danish Fashion Institute and Copenhagen Fashion Week. Her talk is about what every one of us can do to improve our personal footprint and the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry.

Get even more involved

Learn about Fashion Revolution Day
It is on April 24th. Visit http://fashionrevolution.org/ to see what others are doing to celebrate the day.

FashionRevGet social
Show your label and hashtag it on social media with #whomademyclothes. Rock your clothing turned #insideout with the label showing. Take a selfie and post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #whomademyclothes.

Ask questions, lots of them
When shopping online or in-store, ask questions about brands and garments. Where is it made? What is it made of? How is it made? Why is the price so low? You can also learn a lot about brands and their production practices online.

Get App Savvy
Install the aVOID browser extension from ‘Active against child labour’ to enable fair shopping online. It’s really easy to use: When you’re buying clothes online, aVOID works in the background by hiding all manufacturers that have been negatively associated with child labor.

Amy Loder is a DC-based personal stylist and has extensive experience in fashion production, product development and business development. She is passionate about women creating their most authentic personal style and using human and environmentally friendly clothing and products.