International Women’s Day - Using Fashion as a voice
Fashion Revolution 2022.
The continuation of feminism through fashion enables clothing brands to think about their whole supply chain and how female textile workers fit into that chain. Many modern brands are speaking out against the oppression of female textile workers and ensure their clothing factories are a safe place to work.
A little act of rebellion in mid-1800 transformed ladies fashion and abilities when Amelia Bloomer rode her bike with pantaloons on. She helped to revolutionise how nimble and active a women’s lifestyle could be and showed society that a woman could define herself. Society panicked but soon women around the world were donning pants for practicality.
In the ‘80’s women used fashion as a voice in the workplace to say to their male counterparts, “I’m one of you”. Their knowledge, skill and business acumen had more meaning when dressed up in a man’s suit. Safe to say, women are glad those days are over!
And in 2018, women in Hollywood used fashion as a voice to show their unified support of the Time’s Up Movement by wearing black to the Golden Globe Awards, saying no to workplace discrimination & sexual harassment.
Fashion is a feminist issue because it’s overwhelmingly women who sew and model your clothes. On 8 March, 2022, we are using International Women’s Day to give a voice to the many women who make and model your clothes.
Ethically made clothes go beyond the fabric and into the working condition of those that make your clothes. If the clothes you buy are not ethically made, then you know that the women who made them do not have fair payment, safety and respect. They are in a form of modern slavery, and according to the Global Slavery Index (2018), fashion is the second most predominant sector driving modern slavery.
For every piece of clothing you see in Big W, K Mart or Target, you find millions of female employees working in conditions likened to modern slavery. Many women are sexually harassed and work long hours for little pay when making your clothes. 80 per cent them are women with children and although they are paid a living wage, it is only enough for one person to access minimum necessities, like food and shelter. It is not enough for a family to afford any quality of life.
Watch this video by Oxfam where Bangladesh worker, Anju, is paid just 37 cents an hour to make clothes sold here in Australia.
Watch this video by Bazaar that acknowledges the dark side of modelling for top fashion designers.
More and more fashion brands and retailers are using their clothes to speak out against injustice and demand a fairer future for women. “We don’t have to be subjugated to participate in a world where women work under unethical management. We can choose to make the world a safer and fairer place for women who make and model our clothes. We can value them by purchasing clothes from brands who care about the people who work for them” says Natasha Hughes, owner of On Chic Baby Clothes.
And that extends to our children. As modern women we can choose what to dress our babies in. We don’t have to dress them in the blood and sweat of women who barely see their own children. We can choose not to cloth our youngest citizens in mass produced, designs that are accessible cheap, and toxic and are made under duress.
This International Women’s Day we have compiled a list of our favourite female owned, baby fashion brands leading the way in sustainable and ethical fashion for the next generation.
Wanting to make the world a better place, Melissa ensures that her baby clothes support environmental and human rights. Her high ethical business standards keeps watch over the supply chain. “We want our products to have a meaningful and positive impact on everyone involved in their creation.” Aster & Oak require the working environments of their factories in India to be structurally safe, hygienic, and supportive of physical and mental health and well-being. Their workers are paid far above the minimum wage set by the International Labor Organisation and fair wages means that workers can care for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Murabai pays her workers fairly for their time, and follows the GOTS framework for working hours, ensuring everyone has time to rest and spend with their families. She visits her two suppliers in India and China regularly and speaks to them weekly and cares about the effect her baby clothes has on the women who make them.
Vasanthavalli, a checking coordinator, has worked with Murabai's supplier in India for about 12 months. We asked her how she feels about working in the factory and she simply said “happy”. She lives in the local area, so it’s just a short 6km journey by bus, to and from work. We love the beautifully bright colours she and her colleagues wear each day.
Fiona thought there had to be a more sustainable way to make organic baby clothes so she uses regenerative farming practices and water saving techniques for her fabrics. In addition, she also looks after the workers who make her baby clothes. Her brand ensures hygienic working conditions for their workers, safety on the job, and humane working hours.
Peta knew there was a way to create beautiful baby clothing in a truly sustainable way so she embarked on getting her designs sewn in fair trade factories in India. Having Princess Charlotte dressed in her baby clothes was an amazing accomplishment but ultimately she hopes to change the way people view fashion by showing that the making of her baby clothes is responsible and ethical.
If you want to be part of the fashion revolution, follow @fash_rev on Instagram. Throughout the pandemic, fashion brands have made billions, while the majority of workers in their supply chains remain trapped in poverty. To address this, we are calling for new laws that require businesses to conduct due diligence on living wages. This will transform the lives and livelihoods of the people that make our clothes, and help redistribute money and power in the global fashion industry.
And when you next buy something for your wardrobe, ask the person at the counter... “Who Made My Clothes?”