The jeans I’m wearing right now (my favourite Abigail Tomcats) were made by Samphy. She joined the Outland Denim team two years ago. She is amazing at her job, and in the relatively short period of time she’s worked at Outland she’s already been promoted to Team Leader Assistant. She says that working at Outland has had a positive impact on her life. She has financial security and can spend more time with her family. Plus, she has the opportunity to engage in personal development and education programs. She feels like her quality of life has improved. I know all this because Samphy’s story is printed on the inside pocket lining of my Abigail jeans. If you wear Outland Denim, you already know who made your jeans.
This week, Fashion Revolution Week, is when people around the world (44K people last April alone1) unite to ask ‘Who made my clothes?’ In solidarity with and in memory of the 1134 garment workers who perished in the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in 2013, we are reflecting on the ongoing effect of Covid-19 on workers across the full supply chain. Among the rubble was clothing being made for brands that we wear every day. With these horrific images played out on news feeds around the world, the dirty side of the fashion industry was no longer out of sight and out of mind.
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted people who are already vulnerable, like garment workers, and between March and May 2020, the world’s 50 million garment workers lost wages totalling USD$5.79 billion.1 But we can’t forget about the rest of the supply chain. Who wove the fabric? Who dyed it? Who picked the cotton?
In a recent report by Baptist World Aid, it was estimated that a garment purchased in Australia or New Zealand has passed through 100 pairs of hands before it even reaches you, the wearer. And so although the numbers are overwhelming, there is hope. After all, this means that for every garment you buy, you have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of 100 people.
In 2021, we’re proud to share that Outland Denim knows the complete journey of our denim from Tier 1 (production) to Tier 5 (the cotton seed). This is an encouraging milestone. Typically it is extremely difficult for brands to get insight into the deepest parts of their supply chains - where the raw materials begin.
We believe in the power of consumerism and our ability to harness it for good. We have the power to fix things together. For too long fashion has come at the expense of the people making it (see: t-shirts with feminist slogans made by women who don’t receive a living wage - our pet peev here in the Outland office!)
It’s nothing above and beyond, to simply treat people with the human rights, dignity, and respect that they deserve. There has never been a more important time to set a cycle of empowerment in motion.
You have the power, but by no means should the onus be on you to clean up a mess that the fashion industry made. You shouldn’t have to know what GOTS, OEKO-TEX, or ZDHC mean to simply go out and buy a pair of jeans - who has the time for that?! Here are things you can do to learn more about who made your clothes, while reminding brands of their responsibility, too:
- Follow and engage on social media with brands making the world a better place. The B Corporation directory is a great place to discover purpose driven businesses.
Tag your favourite brands on social media and ask #whomademyclothes.
- Visit the Fashion Revolution website for resources and events in your area.
- Check out our Instagram Fashion Revolution guides for accounts to follow and documentary and podcast recommendations.
- Listen to podcasts by The Rights Lab, University of Nottingham, one of the world’s leading modern slavery research bodies, working to advise law makers and end injustice.
- Buy Outland Denim...of course!
We are a fashion movement for change, inspired by design and the beauty of a perfectly made garment, to not only empower you, the wearer, but also makers, like Samphy, too. Just because things have always been done a certain way it doesn’t mean that way is correct. Let’s strive to change the fundamental wrongs of a system that was built to exploit.
2. https://workerdiaries.org/two-months-on-the-impact-of- covid-19-on-workers/ (Garment Worker Diaries. Two Months On: The Impact of COVID-19 on Workers. GWD. [Online] June 2020. https://workerdiaries.org/two-months-on-the-impact-of- covid-19-on-workers/