Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the deadliest tragedy in garment industry history. On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh killed over 1,130 workers, injured over 2,500 more and left 800 children orphaned.
In the months following, the disaster was deemed a ‘wake-up call’ for the $1.5 trillion dollar fashion industry while analysts called it a ‘turning point.’
Would shareholders, CEOs, and consumers alike, finally realize it was time to make a change?
With the exception of a small group of global pioneers leading the movement, the mainstream consumer still has a difficult time making the connection between a foreign factory in a developing country and themselves. And we can’t really blame them.
Tragedy occurs all around us, all over the world, all of the time. So, we have to wonder why we should care any more about a foreign factory collapsing than we do about civil war in Syria, violence in Venezuela, or invasion in Ukraine.
While one tragedy can’t be compared to another, we can ask ourselves: Is there a way for me to make this better? What power do I hold to change this?
And in the case of Rana Plaza, you hold more power than you probably know.
A day before the collapse, three cracks were found in the concrete pillars that supported Rana Plaza and the illegal construction that converted the building from five to eight floors. All workers were sent home after authorities deemed the building ‘unsafe.’
The next morning, the factory managers called everyone back to work, telling them that the building had been inspected again overnight and it was safe to return. Questioning the legitimacy of the claims, the garment workers refused to go back in, standing outside the building as unrest began to grow.
Under the threat of losing their jobs, and thus not having a way to feed themselves and their families, eventually the workers hesitantly reentered the building to begin the day’s work. Not much time had passed before the building began to crumble to the ground.
Inside those crumbling walls, our clothing was being made. It’s the same clothing that you’ll find in your local mall or on Fifth Avenue or even in your closet right now.
And while the guilt can start to set it, and our minds can begin to shut off to the reality of the tragedy, there is another way to respond — a way that has less to do with reaction and more to do with taking action.
Tomorrow we’ll take the day to commemorate the lives lost in the brutal murder of over 1,100 people one year ago. But as we move forward, there are small, impactful steps we can take every day to improve the future of the fashion industry.
Simply put: people shouldn’t die to fulfill our fashion ‘wants.’ And we all have the power to make real, marked change every time we make a purchase.
Here are 8 ways you can get started right now and support Fashion Revolution Day:
2.) Purchase a t-shirt that asks “Who made your clothes?” designed by ethical fashion brand Under the Canopy. The 100% certified organic cotton shirt was made in the USA in a geothermal/solar-powered facility. All of the proceeds will go to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust to support the families of the victims.
3.) Contribute a monetary donation directly to the Rana Plaza Arrangement.
4.) Wear a piece of clothing inside out tomorrow, April 24, 2014, and take a photo. Share the picture on social media and the Fashion Revolution Day Facebook page with the hashtag #insideout. Take part in the Twitter party at 12pm EST and you could win an ethical designer wardrobe worth more than $3,000.
5.) Attend a Fashion Revolution Day event near you.
7.) Educate yourself about how your purchasing decisions affect the rest of the world by reading any of these acclaimed books: To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline, and Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with your Wardrobe by Greta Eagan.
8.) Start the conversation with a friend or on social media by asking, “Do you know who made your clothes?”
We all have the power. Do something with it.