Who Made My Clothes? How traceability is revolutionising fashion

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The fashion industry is changing and calls from campaigners and consumers have resulted in widespread concern about the conditions of fashion’s global supply chains. Sarah Ditty explores the Fashion Revolution. 

According to a new report by market analyst Key Note, calls for a Fashion Revolution have seen a flurry of brands rushing to prove that they can trace their supply chains all the way back to the very cotton field or cashmere mill that the fabric is sourced from, while others are reshoring their production sites back to UK factories, where manufacturing can be traced one stitch at a time.

Two years on from the worst ever human disaster in the global textiles industry, Key Note’s brand new Clothing Manufacturing Market Update questions: how much has truly changed in fashion’s supply chains?

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in April 2013 may not have been the first tragedy to strike the international factories where Western clothing is made, but a number of campaign groups and retailers are now demanding that it is the last. Clothing companies have, for many years, hidden cheap labour and dangerous conditions behind a thin veil of ignorance, but the seams have unravelled to reveal the truth of how this season’s latest skirt, knitwear or scarves were actually made.

There is now widespread concern about the conditions of fashion’s global supply chains. In April 2015, Fashion Revolution’s hashtag #whomademyclothes was shared by 63 million unique users – those who want to know how clothing is made, by whom and at what cost. Brands and retailers are increasingly facing these questions and governments too are beginning to join the debate. This year discussions about the ethics of fashion and the future of UK manufacturing have hosted by the UK House of Lords, House of Commons, the European Commission and the G7.

Key Note has found that British manufacturers are springing up as a welcome alternative to often questionable ethics in overseas factories, and the heritage brands that didn’t to follow the crowds to the likes of Bangladesh and the Far East a few decades ago are now smugly counting their sales figures from their local production.

The Leicester garment industry is slowly being restored, as the ‘Made in the UK’ clothing label seems to be enough to send garments flying off the shelves. In fact, the report expects a 65 percent increase in demand for UK made high-end fashion over the next five years contributing an extra £400m turnover to the economy. However, ‘Made in UK’ doesn’t always ensure labour rights are protected and respected. Last year, the Ethical Trading Initiative reported garment workers in Leicester making below the minimum wage and without formal contracts.

But at least most brands and retailers are now recognising the importance of transparency to their brand reputation, and consumers can no longer be painted as careless and lazy. So now, rather than ‘fashionistas’ asking what designer you are wearing, the question on everyone’s lips has become: Who Made My Clothes?

Download the “How To Be A Fashion Revolutionary” booklet for free: www.fashionrevolution.org

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