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A Decade of Fashion Transformation: A Timeline of the Revolution

A Decade of Fashion Transformation: A Timeline of the Revolution

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, which housed garment factories, was a devastating event that killed more than 1,100 people and injured some 2,500 workers, many seriously.

This tragedy, one of the most tragic in the history of the clothing industry, drew attention to the usually hidden realities of clothing production: where and under what conditions clothes are made.

Carry Somers, owner of sustainable brand Pachacuti, and designer Orsola de Castro founded the non-profit organization Fashion Revolution after the Rana Plaza disaster.

Ten years later, it has become the largest fashion activism campaign in the world, operating in over 100 countries.

The inaugural Fashion Revolution Day introduced #InsideOut, a predecessor to 2014’s Who Made My Clothes? campaign. It encouraged consumers, designers and retailers to think about the origins of their clothes and gain deeper insight.

Participants were encouraged to wear their clothes inside out, take a photo and share it using #insideout on social media. The initiative attracted tens of thousands of participants from more than 60 countries in its first year.

In 2015, the globally recognized #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign was launched. In Berlin, Germany, at Alexanderplatz, Fashion Revolution Germany installed a unique “2 Euro T-shirt Vending Machine.” This social experiment allowed consumers to buy a plain white T-shirt for just 2 Euro. However, before buying, they were shown information about the production of the garment, revealing the harsh conditions, such as 16-hour working days for minimum wage, often just a few cents per hour.

In 2016, the first Fashion Revolution Week took place, with a series of events to raise awareness of the fashion industry. This included the launch of the #LovedClothesLast and #IMadeYourClothes campaigns. The latter highlighted the voices of over 3,500 manufacturers.

In 2017, Fashion Revolution Week took place again, coinciding with the launch of the Fashion Transparency Index. The index assessed the 100 largest fashion companies, each with annual revenues exceeding $1.2 billion, to assess their transparency practices. Unfortunately, none of the brands, even the leading ones, achieved a transparency score higher than 50 percent. Only eight brands scored above 40 percent, including Adidas, Reebok, Marks and Spencer, H&M, Puma, Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy.

2018 marked the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Rana Plaza, coinciding with the fifth Fashion Revolution Week. Each year, the event has attracted more and more participants from around the world.

In 2019, Fashion Revolution Week returned with a range of events, including repair workshops, lectures, panels and even bike rides. Fashion Revolution also debuted a series of how-to videos and PDF guides that taught innovative fashion skills like mending clothes, reducing waste and advocating for change.

For the first time in the history of the Fashion Transparency Index, some brands scored above 60 per cent: Adidas, Reebok and Patagonia topped the ranking, scoring 64 per cent of a possible 250 points, while Esprit and H&M scored 61 per cent respectively.

In 2020, the Fashion Revolution Index highlighted the ongoing transparency issues in the industry. H&M, C&A and Adidas/Reebok topped the list with scores of 73, 70 and 69 per cent out of 250, respectively. Esprit came in close behind with 64 per cent, while Marks & Spencer and Patagonia both scored 60 per cent. Shockingly, more than half of brands (54 per cent) scored 20 per cent or less, while 28 per cent scored just 10 per cent.

Fashion Revolution also launched a new campaign in partnership with Circle Economy called #Whatsinmyclothes. The campaign revealed that in 41 percent of cases, the labels on clothes did not accurately reflect the composition of the clothes.

Despite the pandemic moving most of Fashion Revolution Week online for the second year in a row, 2021 proved to be one of the most important years yet. Centered around the themes of “Human Rights, Relationships, and Revolution,” over 90 Fashion Revolution teams around the world hosted impactful events and activities. A notable highlight was the launch of the #WhoMadeMyFabric campaign. Additionally, Fashion Revolution attended the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 to advocate for reforms in the fashion industry.

As was the case the previous year, fashion brands and retailers showed minimal improvement in disclosing their manufacturing practices and sustainability efforts in 2022. The average overall score barely rose to 24 percent compared to 2021. A third of brands assessed scored less than ten percent, including Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino, while 17 major brands, including Jil Sander, Max Mara, Tom Ford, Fashion Nova, Shein and New Yorker, received a zero percent score. On the other hand, Italian retailer OVS and Australian giants Target and Kmart stood out with scores of 78 percent, a significant improvement on the previous year.

In 2023, the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse was celebrated with Fashion Revolution Week. The week included a photo exhibition in honour of the workers, as well as clothing swaps, workshops and activities aimed at achieving a living wage. One of the highlights was the Fair Fashion Day, held in front of the European Parliament in Brussels.