The Fashion Revolution week is here… and I’m torn

Have you come across products or experiences that in theory are perfect for you but – despite noticing this supposedly perfect fit – you cannot even begin to like it? Well, that is how I feel about Fashion Revolution. So I’ll use the occasion of the week where they are filling all my social media feeds to try and disentangle this irrational dislike.

Obviously, this is just me ranting from my own moldy self-righteous activist cave. I hope you are a better person and able to embrace people that have the same aims but just happen to do things differently than you would have done… But, despite the great ghost of the dangers of infighting hovering above us, I cannot like things at will.

Full disclosure, there is a personal side to it: I tried to be part of it but my fanzine submission was rejected, so I have a grudge about my efforts having been judged as unworthy… Irrational, I know, but it hurt. And then there is envy: my little black soul looks at other people who have been invited to be FashRev ambassadors and fills with rage at me not being picked despite all my hard work. Petty, I know.

That draft submission became this post and the whole #100wears category.

To begin, let me state the obvious benefits this thing has brought to the table:

I like Fashion Revolution because:

It is a clear success. The visibility work for the cause has been massive, and here I am writing a critique while also saying good things and using their visual identity during the week that they have designed as *the* week. Good job, FashRev!

And you can see the sustainable fashion brands happily piggy-backing on the hashtags for the visibility they might have lacked, especially among those who are posting their fast fashion wares at the big brands and then scrolling through the hashtags. This is, I imagine, the imagined mechanism of reeling people in and facilitating the discovery of smaller, more sustainable brands. There can’t be any data on the efficiency and the conversion rate of this, though…

Another great marketing victory is to having put a cool name to the cause that is quite disperse. And the social media just love it.

#Haulternatives are a very good thing. That the haul phenomenon exists is very sad, and the alternatives might have gained from a reframing. Again, all that FashRev has done is conceptualization and reframing of existing practices.

They are promoting community action. Great, the message that cyberactivism is not enough is very needed. Yet the strategy from an outsider’s point of view looks like ‘you organize a thing and then use our name to further our mission, we’ll reap the benefits’…

I have a feeling that the aesthetics and ‘actions’ offered are attractive to very young people. I hope they are. Maybe that is my problem with the whole thing: I am just not the audience for this? Maybe I just never needed a pretty pdf giving me ideas because I somehow got them elsewhere.

Yeah, this could have been more positive, I guess… but there is more.

I cringe at Fashion Revolution because:

(and these are the same reasons I cringe at most ONG/big cause efforts these days despite having happily been part of that world for years)

Not being confrontational… This just pisses me off. They are trying very hard not to alienate anybody in the industry. Fuck that. There are actual bad guys in this, plenty of them, so I expect an organization who’s manifesto states ‘we love fashion but we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or destroy our planet’ and ‘demands radical, revolutionary change’ to point them out and take a clear stance regarding the unacceptability of their actions.

It’s too broad, too general, too ‘anything goes’, and too willing not to place blame… Yes, inclusive is good and desirable, bet there is real blame here that cannot be erased. My impression of the FashRev logic is the ‘let’s forget the past present and move on’. As the experiences of whole countries after traumatic events show, nobody really moves on without proper truth and reconciliation work. Even more so when actual moving on would mean a total overhaul of the existing business models.

The designation of a yearly day or week creates a fake momentum. I understand the thinking behind it – ‘we concentrate our efforts once a year, try to be the trending topic then’ – but that is the perfect no effort activism for the masses: you switch the lights off, you wear this ribbon, you post this thing with this hashtag and you are done here until next year. That is not real and should not count unless followed by much more.

That we need an official disaster is even less tasteful. At least Earth day is attached to something generally seen as positive, although vague and obviously northern hemisphere-centric. We focus on Rana Plaza because that was the one among hundreds and thousands of disasters that we noticed, the one we could put a date and a number on. As with the climate emergency, we cannot fathom that there is a low level tragedy behind every sequined fast fashion top.

Despite the communities and decentralization narrative, I have an impression that it is a very vertical structure. As in my days in a local Amnesty International chapter, the new slogans and the new materials come right from the top. ‘This year we are adding #whatsinmyclothes’. You cannot have it both ways.

Not really talking about money… Consumer culture is a class issue. Fast fashion has been a democratizing force, unfortunately, and FashRev is not addressing it.

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My biggest grudge, however, is the stupid #whomademyclothes… it is a marketing ploy, of course, not expecting a real answer. But bear with me and let’s assume that I’m a person on the spectrum who actually believes that words and syntactic structures actually mean what they say they mean.

So that would be me launching a question ‘Who made the clothes that bear your brand label?’ at some community manager of one of the big fast fashion brands. If you happen to know the first thing about supply chains in fashion, that is like writing to a dairy company and ask which cow your milk came from… you are asking the wrong person, they have no clue in general, they have no systems in place to know it, they never promised you that information in the implicit user agreement you signed by introducing your credit card number, and, technically, it doesn’t even make sense because many different people made your clothes.

So you have people who know too little asking a nonsensical question to people who also know too little. How will that change anything?

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What do you think about Fashion Revolution? I hope you love and support them, I truly do. Am I being too harsh? Probably… And I really hope that contact with Fashion Revolution is becoming the first step people make towards less toxic habits of shopping and wearing, reaching beyond label selfies. Please reassure me that that is the case… ♥

2 Comments

  1. Luize, gracias por escribir todo esto. Recuerdo la primera vez que te pregunté por ello, me dijiste algo parecido pero más sintético. También yo veo limitada su labor, aunque la agradezco, pues funciona bastante bien con novatos en el tema, para sensibilizarlos. Pero para los que más profundizamos ya nos cuesta encontrar una organización en la que estemos del todo conformes. Me sucedió con el activismo en bici también, y aunque me desanimó mucho, no lo he dejado. Una pena, porque por falta de pluralismo no agarramos fuerza en esta y otras resistencias. Y lo de justicia, verdad y reconciliación, tienes toda la razón.
    Para mi muchas personas, además de ti, podrían hacer una labor enriquecedora en esta ONG, pero aún no veo que haya esta apertura, espero equivocarme o que sí la haya pronto, ya sea ahí o en otra.
    Te quiero un montón.
    ¡Hagamos una!

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