John-Paul Flintoff

Who made your clothes?

On Fashion Revolution Day

It’s quite an intimate relationship, if you think about it – but few of us give much thought to the people who made the clothes that we wear next to our bodies. And that’s because, in many cases, the distance between maker and consumer has become vast.

So the people behind Fashion Revolution Day aim to get as many people as possible to think about the question: “Who Made Your Clothes?”

Fashion Revolution Day (FRD) is a movement – or a campaign, or a revolution. Nobody seems to know, yet, which – but it’s extremely important and exciting. The idea is to create an annual date for people to think deeply about fashion. It will fall on the anniversary of the disaster at Rana Plaza, where hundreds of Bangladeshi garment workers, operating in dreadful conditions, were killed and injured.

We’re hoping to improve conditions by asking intermediaries to put consumers and makers in closer touch with each other.

Who made my Boden shirt?

At this point, it seems as if the signature “action” that FRD activists around the world will undertake on the day is to wear their clothes inside out. This is a cracking idea. But I’m hoping that people might also do some collaborative mending.

This is an idea I came across a few months ago at a big arts event in Holland. I was invited to ArtEZ in Enschede to talk about improvisation, and while I was there I was invited to join a session run by Saskia van Drimmelen and Margreet Sweerts.

In the session, a group of people (mostly young, all female except me) got together with old or damaged garments to make them good again – not with invisible mending but VISIBLE mending. And the mending was done to make a beautiful embellishment of what was previously a flaw.

Part of the powerful effect this had on me was that something “bad” was turned good – after all repairing, in a slightly different sense, is what we’re trying to do through FRD.

But the mending was also shiny, creative and fun. And it was done collaboratively. We helped to mend and embellish each other’s garments, so in answer to the question, Who Made My Clothes? I would have to answer: anonymous Thomas Pink garment workers and the Dutch fashion designer Saskia van Drimmelen.

I, in my turn, did the same for others. And in the process of making even small repairs I was confronted yet again with the thought of how much work had gone into making the shirt in the first place.

When I came home, I did similar mending, like this patch at the back of a shirt, which I mention in the video above, using a patch from my wife’s old skirt.

It would be wonderful for FRD to get together people from across fashion – from individual makers, through manufacturers, marketing people, retailers, and ultimately consumers – and do some collaborative mending together.

And bearing in mind the strong tradition for bright embellishment in Bangladeshi garments, we could learn a lot if we invited skilled Bangladeshi makers to join us.

Comic Relief has red noses. Poppy day has red poppies. I do hope that Fashion Revolution Day will be known, in years to come, for its glittering repairs.

blog comments powered by Disqus