by Jo Salter, Founder Where Does It Come From?
On Saturday 28th April a group of almost 30 ethical brands got together at the Museum of Brands in Ladbroke Grove, London for our event ‘Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution’. Their mission – to show customers that there are clothing and fashion brands in the UK who CAN tell them who make their clothes and in fact are absolutely passionate about telling their stories!
Hundreds of people came along during the day to listen to panel talks, watch a fashion show, a spinning demonstration and a tailoring talk, and also to browse, shop and chat with the various stall holders about their products, who made them and how they did it.
Why This Message at This Time?
On 25th April 2018 it was the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza Factory disaster, in which 1138 garment workers were killed when their unsafe factory collapsed. Many more were injured and countless lives were affected.
This disaster triggered a huge response from consumers and from the fashion industry. Fashion Revolution was set up by leading fashionistas Carrie Somers and Orsola de Castro to call for justice for garment workers and transparency from clothing brands – calling for customers to ask their brands ‘Who Made My Clothes?’. The campaign has grown massively year on year.
There are many brands who are passionate about this cause and about sharing the stories of their makers and their processes with their customers. In 2017 Where Does It Come From? worked with other transparent ethical brands to create a video showcasing the fact they they can tell you the stories behind their clothes. We asked our customers to send us selfies of themselves holding a sign which read ‘I Know Who Made My Clothes’. They enthusiastically responded!
This year we wanted to go live! I approached Sian Conway, founder of Ethicalhour, who was enthusiastic about collaborating and we set off on our journey – selecting the Museum of Brands in London as the location and pulling in all the amazing brands and sponsors who wanted to be a part of it. You can see a list of all who participated and supported on the event page at Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution event.
Ethical Brands at the Brands Museum
The location was fantastic! We took over the museum with ethical stands in the two main halls. Georgina Wilson-Powell from Pebble Magazine ran the three panel sessions that we held during the day. The first one was a discussion of natural versus man made fabrics and participants were Clare Lissaman from Arthur and Henry Shirts, Henry Palmer from Bysshe Partnership, Kishore Shah from Khadi CIC and myself (standing in for Henri shirts who couldn’t make it at the last minute!). We covered a wide range of topics from polyester, traditional fabrics such as khadi, cotton, silk and wool and moved on to newer technologies such as mushroom and pineapple leather. There was plenty of healthy debate!
Our second panel was on Transparency in the supply chain and was made up of Sarah Greenaway from Mosami jewellery, Lenny Leeman from Mamoq and myself (a scheduled appearance this time!). This was actually my favourite panel as transparency is so key to what we do at Where Does It Come From? and I really enjoyed the discussion about how we can encourage brands to be more transparent in what they do and inspire consumers to keep asking questions. Particularly interesting was Sarah’s comments about jewellery being further behind than clothing and the challenges she has in sourcing ethical metals. You can see a video of the panel session below:https://www.facebook.com/v3.2/plugins/video.php?app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fx%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter%2F%3Fversion%3D46%23cb%3Df1c4fe3d36bb68%26domain%3Dwww.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk%252Ff152dfc1325f934%26relation%3Dparent.parent&container_width=940&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fethicalhour%2Fvideos%2F575639349485417%2F&locale=en_GB&sdk=joey&width=590
The final panel of the day was on the ‘True Cost’ of ethical fashion and asking why it is perceived as more expensive. Panelists were Heather Webb from Ethical Consumer Magazine, Sophie Slater from Birdsong, Masato from Masato London and Sabine Harnau from From Scratch. The panellists were in agreement that actually ethical fashion prices are fairly well aligned with high street prices although, as with more standard fashion, it is always possible to select high quality designer pieces that are more expensive. Masato, as a tailor, was discussing the trust relationship he builds up with his clients – a relationship they are happy to pay more for. Sabine explained that before becoming aware of ethical fashion she had thought that cheap items such as t shirts for a pound must have been made purely by machine. It is only with horror that she has discovered the human involvement and how badly the makers must have been paid and treated. She believes that many people do not realise that cheap fashion is still made by people and do not understand the knock on effects that the low prices have.
Fashion Show, Talks and Demonstrations…..
There was also a fashion parade showcasing contributions from many of the brands present. This was pulled together by Krissy of KrissyB Styling who did an amazing job with volunteer models and no rehearsal time whatsoever! Asha Buch from Khadi London gave a fascinating demonstration of cotton spinning and Claire Couchman of Couchman Bespoke gave a tailoring talk outlining the benefits of bespoke tailoring on the individual and the environment too.
Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution – The Reaction
Prior to the event we had coverage in Elle Magazine, Natural Mumma Magazine, Ethical Marketing News, Jiminy Magazine, Pebble Magazine and the Ipswich Star as well as on the Fashion Revolution website and in many other local and regional publications. Over 500 people ordered tickets for the event using Eventbrite and we know several hundred did visit during the day, some staying for a short while and others for most of the day. It felt busy throughout with the crowds moving to attend the different events which we had located at different locations within the museum to ensure good flow. Feedback has been excellent and we are already discussing how we can make it bigger and better next year!
Here are just some of the blogs and media coverage that have been published since the event. If you know of any more just let me know and I’ll include them here.
Thank you so much to the writers of these wonderful articles for getting on board with our message and event.