Why We Like Swapping Better Than Shopping

On Sunday the 3rd of December we’re hosting the third Green Fashion Fair at the Green Living Lab. If you’ve been at the previous ones, you’ll know how fun it is to find that an old sweater from someone’s grandpa is actually a perfect addition to your hipster look, or that someone is happily taking home your bad buys. But the reason we started Clothes Swaps at the Green Living Lab has more to it. Time to share the story of how we got inspired to contribute to the fashion revolution.

Each year in April on social media, thousands of people showed their labels and asked the brands #whomademyclothes. Farmers, producers, and factory workers responded with pictures of their working process, proudly holding the #imadeyourclothes-sign. Each year this Fashion Revolution Week sparks up many conversations about  human rights and the environmental aspects of the fashion industry.

This ‘Fashion Revolution‘, as the organisation is called, was born on April 24, 2013. This was the day that the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. This tragedy was only part of a growing dissatisfaction about the treatment of the people and the planet in all layers of the clothing industry. But the tremendous anger and despair of Rana Plaza set the true revolution on fire and people all over the world joined forces to demand change.

Now, slowly the world is starting to realise that, however complicated the issue is, something’s off with the way we produce, sell, and buy our clothes. Simply put, change is necessary for:

1. The People. Human rights are being abused in the garment industry. Minimum wage is rarely enough to live off. Workers are being mistreated for demanding better conditions. Buildings have often collapsed or caught fire.

2. The Planet. To grow, dye, launder and treat our clothes, we use chemicals that end up polluting rivers. Also, a huge amount of water is used to produce clothing by growing cotton and wet processing, such as dyeing and laundering. Not only the clothes we produce, also the enormous amounts of clothes we throw away pollute the environment. Charities cannot keep up with all the donated clothes and only a small part of it is being resold in developing countries. All the others end up in landfills, releasing toxic chemicals into the air, water, and soil.

3. The Mindset. Fashion used to have four seasons, each bringing in new lines. Now, fashion has 52 seasons, and 150 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually. Fashion is fast, cheap, and we like it. As we buy more and more of them, we lose our love for the quality of clothes and all the people and resources that brought them to us. Appreciation of our clothes is the first step towards a more humane and fair situation.

Without depressing you any further, I’ll refer those interested in the full story to the documentary The True Cost (to be found on Netflix & beyond). Honestly, I watch a lot of documentaries, but this is one of the two that have changed the way I think (the other is Cowspiracy, which made me go vegan in a day).

Now, on to the action! What can we do?15128819_1635957166704015_2505552897505938247_o

1. Swap! Knock yourself out at the Green Fashion Fair on Sunday or at the ones to come (keep an eye on our Facebook page for the next event). Will all this swapping have any effect? Yes! The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, in terms of carbon emissions, the amount of textiles recycled each year is equivalent to taking one million cars off the road.

2. Shop – Be a critical consumer. Every time we buy clothes that cost less than we think it should, we are implicitly imposing the cost on someone or something else. Avoid bad buys. Myself, I’m lucky to have very stylish sisters who’ve been my personal shoppers since I can remember. But I’m sure you have some friends to ask for advice as well.

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3. Join the Fashion Revolution! See what you can do on the Fashion Revolution website. Ask your brands #whomademyclothes and mingle in the conversation on social media.

Have you ever wondered who made your clothes? Let us know what you think about the issue, and see you at the swap!