Have you heard about the Fashion Revolution?
Malta is getting ready to chime in thanks to passionate activist, Tammy Fenech and YOU can be a part of this movement too. Here to tell us more is the beautiful lady herself ….
Tammy, I’m so excited to have you here with us today … can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Currently, I am reading a masters degree in Sustainability in Fashion Design in Berlin. I studied Fashion & Communication in Leeds in the UK between 2010-2013. In 2012 I had some work experience in London, which opened my eyes to some truths behind the Fashion world and that’s where I realized how it hardly aligned with my personality. It was also then that I recognized the link between sustainability and fashion, and how that, in fact, was right up my street. After completing my dissertation and project, which focused on creating a sustainable brand, I travelled to South East Asia & India for a total of 11 months. Over that time I gained real insights behind the ‘other side’ of the supply chain, where I witnessed an even deeper truth behind the Fashion Industry. With most of my time spent in India, I developed a complete love for the country, one that, till this day, makes me consider it as a second home. It was that experience that really empowered me to want to make real changes towards the future of fashion.
During my travelling time, I spent 2 months in Bali where I interned for a shoe company called ‘indosole’, who create shoes with soles made out of recycled tires. In 2015 I moved to London for 6 months where I worked for the company Wool and the Gang, while simultaneously interning for the company People Tree. This experience was extremely motivating and inspiring and I gained solid insights on how sustainability and fashion could not only work but could actually be a tool for positive impact and a force for good.
In 2016 I moved to Belrin to begin my studies where I am currently working on my thesis and will (hopefully) graduate in September.
What exactly is Fashion Revolution and who started it?
Fashion Revolution is a global non-for profit movement based in the UK, that advocates for a more sustainable and transparent fashion supply chain through the power of social media.
It was founded in 2013 in response to the most fatal incident that the fashion industry has faced till this day. In 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed, killing nearly 2000 workers while injuring another 1000 (+), a tragedy that shook up the fashion industry. It had later been noted that reports about the cracks in the building’s foundations had been made, and while the employees in the bank at the bottom floors of the building had been advised not to show up to work during that week, the garment workers where actually threatened that they would lose their job had they not.
In light of this blatant injustice, Orsola de Castro and Carey Somers, two leading designers in the world of sustainable fashion, had an immediate calling to mobilize for radical change within the way we perceive our clothes. Turning the conversation onto the consumer, their main message is to raise awareness behind the people who make our clothes a reality, by encouraging consumers to ask the simple question #whomademyclothes.
Through their powerful imagery and straightforward message, they have enabled consumers to think a bit deeper behind the making of a simple t-shirt while empowering them to understand their true power as consumers.
Why do you feel it is so important and what sort of impact has it already made?
In the world of fast fashion retail, as consumers we have been totally disconnected from the reality of the fashion industry. The idea of buying cheap fashion has been portrayed as a kind of “reward”, making us believe that the ability to buy more for less is one that we should pride on. However it has also created a massive disconnect between the t-shirt (for example) and the journey it went through to actually become that very t-shirt. It is so important for us as consumers to begin to understand that to make that very t-shirt, there where farmers involved in cultivating the cotton, there where spinners involved to create the yarn, weavers to create the fabric, dyers to dye the fabric, garment producers to cut and sew the fabric into a t-shirt, drivers to transport the t-shirt and finally retailers to sell the t-shirt. That journey is one of immense impact on the world and it is so important, that we as consumers begin to understand that very journey on a deeper level in order to really realize that it is ultimately no reward when we buy a t-shirt for five euros, because somebody somewhere will be paying a bigger price for this.
In the last five years Fashion Revolution has truly championed in getting this message across, with the simple question #whomademyclothes, with the hash-tag reaching a total of 150m in the month of April 2017. In 2017, they have successfully mobilized 2416 brands (including mainstream brands, like H&M) to respond to this simple question with the hash-tag #imadeyourclothes. In doing so, brands have published their ever so complex supply chains; making them transparent to their consumers and further enabling for the connections between maker and wearer to be made. A huge step forwards for the fashion industry.
What inspired you to bring this Fashion Revolution movement to Malta?
I have been active in the campaign as a consumer since it started. When I moved to Berlin a year and a half ago, I became even more active, from the side of the industry, helping the team in Germany to work on the movement here. This year, I felt the time was right to bring the conversation home. Besides it being my passion, to be able to share and spread this message is the ultimate dream in my eyes – their campaign is so strong and cohesive, it just made perfect sense to start here in bringing the message home.
Together with my amazing team, Michela Fenech and Francesca Pecci, I was blessed to have a great amount of support through the Malta Creative Collective, a recent endeavor founded by Carla Grima & Rossella Frigerio – were they have shown an immense amount of support, encouragement and inspiration. THANK YOU LADIES!!!
In your opinion, has there been a shift in attitude with up and coming brands locally within the fashion industry with regards to ethical fashion (sustainability, transparency, free trade, human rights, animal rights etc)?
In all honesty not so much, no. However, we are slowly getting there. The reality is that the fashion industry in Malta is only just booming, and so our ability to shop locally is a fairly new thing, which is fantastic to begin with! The idea of supporting local brands is a perfect sustainable place to start. Not only does supporting local brands contribute towards our local economy, it contributes towards localized transportation, more transparency, higher value towards your purchases, and most importantly, it creates that connection that fast fashion has robbed us of as consumers.
However, with our country being so small, we have clear opportunities for the awareness to spread at a faster and perhaps more direct level, were we are able to feel empowered or inspired by one person’s actions in a more impactful way.
What should we be looking out for when trying to buy clothes ethically?
I must admit it is still not so easy or straightforward.
My advice to this is always that one should try to create their own definition for what ethical fashion may look like to them. Whether it focuses on local production, or whether it focuses on natural materials as opposed to synthetic materials that are created from oil, or whether it focuses on second hand items that already exist in the world, which allows for less depletion of natural resources – the reality is that they are all valid and most importantly, they are all a step further than consuming fast and cheap fashion.
The most important thing that one can do as a consumer is to get informed. In fact the tag line of the Fashion Revolution campaign is “Be curious. Find out. Do Something”.
What are your goals for Fashion Revolution 2018? Will this be an annual occurrence?
Our main goal this year is to begin to start spreading awareness and to get the conversation rolling and to ultimately empower others with solutions towards the evident problem.
We intend to simply get the message out there in order to start probing the simple question #whomademyclothes while also engaging the local designers in actively responding with #imadeyourclothes.
So far the response has been amazing – and I am truly grateful!
It will definitely be a yearly occurrence. As a global movement, we intend to work all year round in order to nourish the awareness made during that period of Fashion Revolution week – while working even harder in the month of April in order to push the campaign to spread as wide and far as possible.
So how can we all get involved?
During the fashion revolution week (23rd-29th April) we encourage consumers to join in on spreading awareness by actively taking part in the social media campaign.
We do this by asking people to turn their clothes inside out, show their label, ask their brands #whomademyclothes and post it on their social media channels. It is important to tag the brand in the post and use the specific hash-tags #fashionrevolution #whomademyclothes. In doing so, this enables to put pressure on those brands who do not hold themselves accountable to their supply chains, while also allows for mass awareness to happen in a specific period of time. It is truly amazing!!
Apart from the social media campaign are there any other public events happening locally to support the cause?
Yes!! On the 24th of April (the actual anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse) we will be hosting a screening of the movie ‘The True Cost’ – as it perfectly sums up the reality of the fashion industry and is a great place to start in educating consumers. Following the movie we will have a panel discussion titled: “Who Made My Clothes? Exploring why this question matters”. On the panel we are super excited to have with us Michela Fenech, a Social Impact Accelerator Program Manager at Ashoka, an international organisation working with and supporting change-makers all around the world, Steven Diacono, a Community Manager at Go Beyond Early Stage Investing & Circular Economy Insights, a leading pan-European angel investing company that enables its community of business angels to get behind the innovative startups they believe in and finally, Carla Grima an established Fashion Designer on the island well known for her beautiful fabrics, colourful prints and high quality garments. The aim of the discussion to empower solutions and to highlight the current shifting behaviours in the fashion industry and how we as consumers have an immense power towards this shift.
Fantastic Tammy, thank you so much for your time!