04/25/17 2:24pm

Yesterday marked four years since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh claimed the lives of 1,132 garment industry workers when the factory building they were in collapsed. Brands like Zara, Walmart, Joe Fresh and The Children’s Place were all found to have been producing clothing at Rana Plaza.

Fashion Revolution Week, April 24-30 this year, is a movement to demand clearer supply chains and safer working conditions, and asking fashion brands for a greater commitment to cleaning up the production of clothing, which is one of the biggest industrial polluters in the global economy.

The truth is that there is enough clothing on the planet to keep us all warm and dry well into the future. Not participating in fast fashion by curbing your shopping habit, or hitting vintage and thrift stores is the best way to reduce waste. You can also shop with these ethical fashion companies that provide safe working conditions and living wages for workers.

Another tactic is to shop local.

New York City was once the capital of the garment industry, and it was also one of the centers of the workers rights movement, which was galvanized, in part, by the horrible tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The women, largely Jewish and Italian immigrants, working at Triangle were sewing a fast-fashion forerunner–the fitted, puffy-sleeved tops that were essential to the Gibson Girl look. Different century, same story as Rana Plaza.

Today, the fashion industry is still alive and well in New York City, but most off-the-rack pieces are constructed thousands of miles away in Vietnam, China and India. There are still a handful of garment factories in the city though, and increasingly young, quality-obsessed companies that sell primarily online or in pop-ups are producing New York-made garments that you can feel good about buying and wearing. As a rule they’re more expensive than your average Gap tee, but of course they are. They pay your neighbors a living wage. Here are a few of our favorites. (more…)

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04/19/16 9:30am
Help start a revolution on April 24th, but shopping these ethical (and economic) brands. Courtesy: Fashion Revolution Photo: Stephanie Sian Smith

Help start a revolution on April 24 by shopping these ethical brands. Photo: Stephanie Sian Smith

“At a certain point it’s hard not to look at those prices and wonder, ‘How does any clothing company make money?’ But let’s be honest. You know the answer to that.” — John Oliver, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Despite increasing demand for transparency in fashion, as consumers struggle to understand where and how their clothing is produced, and what the environmental and human effects of their sartorial choices might be, for many of us, resisting trendy clothing at a low price is really hard. Sure, there are plenty of t-shirts that are “handmade” here in Brooklyn, but where was that cotton grown? Spun into yarn? Turned into fabric? Did the smiling artisan you’re chatting with cut and sew it, or did she just silkscreen a geometric design on it? It’s very difficult to figure out where, exactly, most clothing is made, and what the working conditions and labor practices are like, let alone the reverberations throughout the entire supply chain.

Most days it’s all too easy to just forget about sweatshops and labor laws. But April 24 is a day to remember.

Fashion Revolution Day is a response to the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013 that killed 1,134 garment workers. It’s a yearly reminder to ask: Who made my clothes? Just as we’ve embraced farm-to-table eating and organic and local everything, the Fashion Revolution movement wants to bring a new level of  transparency to the fashion industry by asking brands to reveal who grew their cotton, spun their threads, dyed their fabric and sewed everything together.

The good news is that there are brands that are already transparent, so you can shop ethically beyond buying second-hand clothing or making your own duds. Everlane has made waves in the industry by providing detailed information on their sourcing and factories, as well as providing information about the cost of every item, indicating how much of the price went toward materials, labor and transportation. In Brooklyn, Marlow Goods produces leather bags (and soon pants and other apparel) from hides that come from the animals that provide meat to the restaurants Marlow & Sons, Diner, Roman’s and Reynard. Karina Dresses are sewn and designed in New York City and in the Hudson Valley, by workers paid a living wage. Brooklyn Industries is working on a “dirt to shirt” supply chain for a line of tees produced from cotton grown, processed and sewn entirely on the East Coast. Here are a few more companies at the forefront of the “slow-fashion” movement, producing better quality, fair trade products, many at surprisingly competitive prices. (more…)

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