1,133 people were killed and several injured when Rana Plaza collapsed in Dhaka in 2013. The eight-storey commercial building also housed a garment factory, where workers were producing clothes for high-end international fashion brands. The fatalities and injuries could have been avoided, had the building’s foundation had a more sturdy structure, something even remotely close to the well-maintained retail outlets of those brands.
However, what sprung as a silver lining reaction to the disaster was a Fashion Revolution (FR), a global fashion movement that brought together the fashion community and the entire value chain under one banner to ask questions and raise standards within the industry.
Deeply inspired by the FR campaign taking place in london Amirah Abbasi, an economics gradute, decided to bring the venture to Pakistan.
“The initiative really hit home,” Abbasi tells The Express Tribune. “The decision to bring FR to Pakistan was pretty instinctive for me. Pakistan is a major participant in the global fashion supply chain and our labour and resources are an integral aspect of the whole process.”
According to Abbasi, Pakistani textile industry provides employment to an approximated figure of 15 million people and contributes an aggregate of 8.5% to our GDP which is why it was necessary to bring industry standards at par with the international fashion community.
FR was launched in 2013 by Carry Somers and Orsola De Castro who had worked as fashion designers in the UK for over two decades. Today, it is run by a global board of industry leaders, press campaigners and academics, and involving designers, brands, retailers, producers, academics and organisations that are operational in 77 countries.
“The process works by encouraging consumers to buy from manufacturers and producers who follow and implement labour, health and safety regulations and legislation of their respective governments and local bodies,” says Abbasi.
FR has seen major success globally with consumers using the hashtags movement’s #whomademyclothes and #insideout, as they post pictures of themselves wearing their shirts inside out to reveal the namesake tags. Brands such as MarieClaire, Reiss, Aldi, Vivienne Westwood, Eileen Fisher, G-Star Raw, Esprit and M&S have shown support for the hashtag campaign and engaged.
FR aims to discover and reach out to all factories and designer workshops in Pakistan in an attempt to understand the working conditions within the country.
“We aim to encourage and celebrate factories and designers that are setting trends towards an eco-friendly and sustainable fashion,” says Abbasi. “Our research, to our pleasure, has shown us that a handful of Pakistani designers, brands and manufacturers are already working towards creating or have created fashion that allows the customer to also wear an overall clean conscience!”
However, Pakistan has had its share of garment industry related disasters too. A Pakistani case study is Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town, Karachi, which exported its garments to Europe and the United States, and employed between 1,200 and 1,500 workers.
The factory manufactured jeans for textile discounter KiK who claimed to control enforcement of labour laws and the security standards of its suppliers. However, on September 11, 2012, a fire broke out in the factory, killing 257 people and seriously injuring more than 600 people.
“I think Fashion Revolution has a lot to achieve in Pakistan, just within the realms of implementation of basic Human Rights,” asserts Abbasi. “Each year, Fashion Revolution will drive forward a different campaign to tackle some of the fashion industry’s most pressing issues. It will keep the most vulnerable part of the supply chain in the public eye and challenge the industry to do better”.
The venture aims to demonstrate that change is possible by showcasing examples of those who are already creating a better future for the industry. Fashion Revolution campaign will launch within the upcoming months and will engage Pakistani celebrities and models to attract popularity.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2015.