It always seems impossible until it’s done
– Nelson Mandela
With the constant barrage of bad news it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and almost paralyzed. But in this day and age, it has never been more important to use your voice to make a difference. We are at a tipping point where small-scale contribution can make a big difference, and it is vital we leverage our voices to drive change. But many people don’t know where to start. Fortunately, there are inspiring, sustainable, and ethical fashion activist groups across the globe who are leading the way for change. These organizations can give everyone the opportunity to take meaningful action, no matter their background or resources. Read on, get inspired and more importantly get involved.
The Clean Clothes Campaign
Fresh off of the sensational action at Berlin Fashion Week, taking on Adidas for not paying their workers, The Clean Clothes Campaign may be one of the most successful global network in the fight against exploitation and for living wages.
They connect activists in garment-producing and consumer countries, and their members include NGOs, grassroots unions in garment-producing countries, trade unions, activists, feminist organizations, and CSOs. The role of the network is to amplify the voices and demands of garment workers and to push for systemic change and an end to exploitation in the global garment industry.
Directly off the group’s webpage:
Get Involved – “There are many ways to help the fight for better conditions for garment workers.
Our experience shows that momentum for change is growing, and that the power of connecting the struggles that garment workers are conducting with active citizens in garment-consuming countries is working. There is still a long way to go, but together we can make change happen.”
After posting “We Quit” on its website on the last day of last year (12/31/22), the question was, “Are they really quitting?”. And by them, I mean all of us who have taken part in actions led by the XR’ers since they first burst on the scene. When they climbed onto oil tankers, glued themselves to museum masterpieces and tangled up traffic in Trafalgar Square.
But no, to the disappointment of climate deniers everywhere, Extinction Rebellion is merely regrouping. They’re rethinking strategies, and prioritizing “attendance over arrest and relationships over roadblocks.” We think this is a smart move. Not only because actions that lead to jail time at this point in the climate catastrophe convo seem not such a good idea, but because they’ve mounted such radical actions over the 3+ years that what they’re saying is no longer even remotely in dispute.
“YOU ARE XR Extinction Rebellion is made up of people from all walks of life, different backgrounds, cultures, and political affiliations – people like you, coming together to create a different story. We know the crisis we are facing, and we want to change the future. This fight is all of ours, and we all need to be willing to stand up for the truth and face it together.
This is why we, as rebels, have come together to take action. We recognize the injustice – not just to the world’s poor, but to its unborn – that nearly half of global emissions are produced by less than 20% of its population.
The rapid, mass mobilization of people and governments to Covid 19 shows us how quickly we can turn things around when required. The pandemic has shown us that a response in equal proportion to the problem, is both possible and necessary. We have the example; we have seen we can massively shift our behaviors and economic systems when required. Now is the time to acknowledge the facts of the Climate and Ecological Emergency, and apply the same thinking – mitigate and adapt to a future that is quickly barreling towards us. Build resilient systems, support the most vulnerable, shift to regenerative and distributive economies, and live within our ecological boundaries.”
Founded in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, Fashion Revolution has become the largest fashion activism movement around the world. The organization is comprised of consumers, designers, business leaders, policymakers, brands, manufacturers, workers and more allowing it to target all different levels of the fashion supply chain.
Fashion Revolution’s ultimate goal and vision for the future is a global fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth and profit.
The organization works to create change in three areas – cultural, industry and policy – leading to systematic and structural development.
Its website offers great resources as well as listing current activist movements, places to donate and ways to take action!
Fashion Revolution is an amazing organization that works to educate and empower all of the Earth’s citizens to work towards a more sustainable future for the fashion industry.
Re/make is an international non-profit organization on a mission to change the harmful practices utilized in the fashion industry impacting people and our planet.
Founded in 2019 by Ayesha Barenblat, Re/make promotes equality and sustainability in three different areas: education, advocacy and transparency. The organization has made huge strides in all three of these areas because of their large following and continued dedication.
Within the education sector, Re/make has produced informational films and published investigative stories in order to inform all individuals about the negative impacts of the fashion industry. They also hold classroom lectures to engage every global citizen in the discussion of sustainable development.
Re/make also takes part (and even leads) several different activism campaigns to improve the conditions of all people and our planet. Their past campaigns have focused on living wages, gender and climate justice, and systemic change at the policy level.
As for transparency, Re/make has created an amazing brand directory of fashion companies and fosters relationships with them to discuss how they can better partake in sustainable practices throughout their supply chains.
All-in-all Re/make is doing great things for the fashion industry!
Getting information and getting involved in the development of sustainable fashion can be as easy as a simple google search! It is so important to stay informed and take action in order to protect our planet against the climate change.
A great way to stay informed is by following any of the above organizations and even attending their events (online or in-person)! Of course there are more out there so be sure to let us know on social if we missed your favorite!
Fashion Act Now
Activists within Extinction Rebellion formed Fashion Act Now initially as a space to explore –what might an emergency response to the fashion industry be? With no set ideas and only a need to create a space to explore that question, the group has gone on to grapple with notions of degrowth and decolonization. They’ve morphed into a worldwide network of activists asking, “is it possible to create clothing cultures that nurture people and the planet?” Knowing the answer is not so simple. They want to dismantle the industrial Fashion complex while proposing and designing possible futures by seeding a post-fashion commons.
Making way for “flourishing, resilient communities of fashion cultures based on sufficiency, regeneration, and fairness.” Fashion Act Now is currently working on “The Common Market,” an online destination for discovering and creating authentic fashion culture.
“Forget mass-market trends, overconsumption, and corporate profits. Here we will highlight diverse communities around the globe who are making fashion on their own terms: Vibrant, authentic and made with intention and integrity. We show fashion lovers other ways of being in this world.The Common Market is for the common people.”
Author of last year’s must-read book “Regenerative Fashion,” Safia Minney launched the grassroots campaign Fashion Declares a year ago with the sole intent to activate the space with designers, makers, and humans creating positive social impacts and eco, where fashion is a primary driver. Launched with an Open Letter calling for radical change and stubborn optimism, Fashion Declares preaches that the only thing missing is not the knowledge, technology, and ideas but the will: a need to accelerate the changes that must happen industry-wide to stop this unjust behemoth called the fashion industry.
For what is fashion, if not a human construct, a way to tell stories of who we are and what we value? So why not use it to promote sustainable living and solidarity as a way to reframe the climate catastrophe?
The bottom-up, Fashion Declares global movement of over 1,000 fashion practitioners runs monthly webinars on decarbonization, social justice and the circular economy. “Hierarchy is often the enemy of change,” says Minney. “We need system thinkers at every level, not people trying to change things in siloes.”
So sign the letter and then on to their site; it’s an expertly curated space to learn from and lean into a radical way of all things fashion.
Union of Concerned Researches in Fashion (UCRF)
The Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion (UCRF), an independent global community of researchers, academics and fashion practitioners, works for systems change in the sector. Formed by a core group in 2018, the Union fights misinformation, defends science, and keeps the lines of conversation open with the press, decision-makers and the public, all the while advocating for revolutionary change.
The original manifesto is well worth reading:
Acknowledging that planetary systems are under grave threat and that “Fashion with a capital F” actively contributes to the earth’s destruction and human disconnection to nature, the Union seeks to accelerate “other ways” of thinking and making. From making an “activist knowledge ecology” (#01), to “advocating for systems change” (#02), and beyond, this group operates on a deeply committed level. It offers support, visibility and power to make real change.
New York City Fair Trade Coalition
The NYC Fair Trade Coalition is an organization helping to develop fair trade businesses in New York City while providing consumers with vital information on the importance of fair trade. ‘Fair Trade’ is a partnership between producer/artisan and seller that is built on reciprocal benefits and mutual respect; it promotes equality and sustainability within trading and business partnerships.
The NYC Fair Trade Coalition works with ethically minded businesses, other non-governmental organizations, and individual citizens to host promotional/informational events, engage the general public in dialogue and create activism movements.
If you are located in New York City or just visiting, you should definitely check out the NYC Fair Trade Coalition’s Sustainable Fashion Community Center in East Harlem! It is a clothing recycling center (and donation/swap shop), member-led pop-up, and safe space for gathering, sharing and education. As cool as it gets.
The Coalition and its Community Center hold several events a month, such as community meetings, workshops, and meet & greets! They even have an informational podcast (with attached presentations) available to anyone that wants to learn a bit more about ethical trade and sustainability in the fashion industry!