Who Made My Clothes?

Three weeks ago I enrolled on a free online course hosted by Future Learn with Fashion Revolution and Exeter University. The purpose of the course is to understand the issues within the fashion industry, how a fashion supply chain works, and to share a variety of simple techniques to find the answer to ‘Who Made My Clothes?‘. It also explains how to use the findings to press the fashion industry to value people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.

During the course you are asked to write a story about an item of clothing. Here is mine…

whomademy3

“The first time I was worn was at an Austrian Rolling Stones gig (who turned out to actually be from Birmingham) in a village hall, Melbourne, Derbyshire. I danced to Little Red Rooster, Honky Tonk Woman and got my ‘Jagger On’ to Brown Sugar.

Before my first outing though I originally started as a combination of two materials. I’m HTB1j0XeIpXXXXb0XpXXq6xXFXXXJmade of 76% polyester and 24% metallised fibres which were produced in factories in China. The factories were hot, very hot, highs of 270°C are used in the manufacturing process. In the Chinese factories I didn’t see many people, mainly just machines. The first time I really heard conversations and felt a human touch was when I was being transported by ship to Turkey.

When I arrived in Turkey I found myself in another factory. This time there were loads of people, the majority seemed to be Turkish, around the age of 40 and male. However I did Syrian Refguees Trying To Survive In Turkey Work For Minimum Wagesnotice a small group of workers that seemed distant from the others. Whilst under a needle and thread on a tightly packed sewing machine I overheard them whispering about where they came from, Syria, and the horrid civil war that was taking place there. They had to whisper as the man who gave them their 90p an hour wage was always keeping an eye on them.

Before I was popped into a plastic bag my creases were ironed out by a young boy, I overheard him telling a fellow worker that he had worked 15 hours yesterday and that he would just love to go home and play football with his brothers. 

From Turkey I was shipped to a distribution centre in Swindon. While I was there the union GMB for the distribution centre workers turned up and said the workers there were being Marks__Spencer_Reading_290_153_c1treated like lumps of meat. I wondered what this meant, but it turns out the union were outraged as they had been given less than one week’s notice that workers currently employment by agency Tempay Ltd were to be transferred to another employer, 24-7 Recruitment Services without any consultation. It was not a happy place to be.

Finally on November 1st 2016 in Munich as a birthday present to herself, Anna woke up hungover after many German beers and bought me online from Marks and Spencer’s. I left Swindon by truck and was delivered to Anna’s flat in Leicestershire. Hurray!”

whomademy2

whomademy1

Writing the above story was so difficult. Please note that photos and facts used in the story are all related to news articles found on the Independent, BBC and GMB website. I am obviously not 100% certain that Syrian refugees were used in the specific factory that made my shirt. From M&S supply chain map you can see there are many factories in Turkey. This does however show how difficult it is to trace an item of clothing!

The Future Learn course has been great in guiding the research done to create my story. As a last ‘assignment’ the course asks you to make a pledge to do at least one thing to support the Fashion Revolution movement to help improve the lives of the people who make your clothes.

I have previously followed Fashion Revolution’s ‘Get Involved’ Guide; I asked Fred Perry ‘Who Made My Clothes?’, I wrote a love story on a wedding outfit and I hosted a Swap Shop.

My pledge is to continue with my blog and bring awareness to others, continue doing research on the clothes I buy and challenge brands to find out #whomademyclothes, continue to buy second hand, vintage or swap with my friends and continue to support Labour Behind the Label.

What do you pledge to do?

whomademy5

Super Sunday Swap Shop

People now buy four times more clothes than they did in the 80’s. To meet these increasing demands fashion brands are cutting corners in regards to worker rights, pay and safety. It also has huge consequences for the environment, on average UK consumers send 30kg of clothing to landfill each year.

ssp1ssp

Labour Behind the Label are a charity that are dedicated to changing this. Throughout the year I’m doing a couple of challenges to raise money for them and today I held a Swap Shop to encourage the reuse of clothes and raise awareness of the issue.

A Swap Shop is simple, people bring any unwanted clothes, jewellery, books, toiletries etc. to swap. Anything that takes your fancy you can take and any left over bits will be donated to charity. One man/woman’s trash is another man/woman’s treasure.

With support from my amazing friends and family on the day we managed to raise a whopping £123!!!! It was great fun and we took away some cool pieces. My personal favourite is a demin jacket my mate Niamh brought. She had bought it from Dawn O’Porter who sold it on instagram for charity. And now it has been swapped, again for charity! A jacket that just keeps on giving.

unnamed.png

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this so far. You’re all absolute legends. Especially my Mam, Alison, who today was a superstar! If you would like to donate click here.  Also, keep your ears to the ground as I’ll be hosting another Swap Shop soon!

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend, I know I certainly have. Good night x

 

Is High Fashion Slow Fashion?

Those who know me know just how much I adore Alexa Chung’s style. A mix of band t-shirts, 60’s mod, English eccentric, scruffy hair, pumps, satchels and high waisted jeans.

So today when she launched her very own fashion label I was eager to see what was on offer.

ac

I headed to the website and what I found was a great selection of clothes, shoes and accessories but at ridiculously high prices… And this made me think about the ethics and transparency behind high fashion labels. They charge the earth, but why, is it merely because of a brand name? OR Does the garment truly cost that much? Are the cotton farmers, factory workers, shipping merchants, leather dyers paid a fair wage? Given good working conditions? Are the materials extremely good quality? Grown organically? Sourced locally? Rare? Handmade? Do they even know who their suppliers are? Where they are? What conditions they are working in?

Much of the ethical focus is on those fast fashion brands (Primark, H&M, ASOS, Boohoo etc.) because they are cheap and mass produced. Many investigations have been carried out and widely published in the media. However high fashion brands seem to have been left untouched and unscathed.

Is high fashion slow fashion?

I decided to send an email. Within 15 minutes I had a response:

“We understand your concerns. All factories had been visited and approved by our team.

We are also part of the UN Global Compact Program. 

We are happy to make fashion and to make it right as fair as we can.

Here is the link to UN Global Compact website if you want to learn more about it.

This response was a good first step, it shows they believe in making fashion fairly, but it merely just generated more questions. “Where are your factories? What did you find on your visits? How did the workers seem? What about the farmers? Where did the materials come from?”… So I will keep pestering until I get those answers.

But I am only one person. The only way we can get brands to own up and be transparent about where their clothes come from, the only way we can then get brands to ensure where their clothes come from is fair is by all of us asking those questions before we buy. If we keep asking brands the questions and not buying from them until they answer those questions well, they will be forced to ensure their clothes are made ethically.

Petals, keep on asking #whomademyclothes xxx

Beautiful Bank Holiday in Berlin

This time last week I was begrudgingly returning to work following a long weekend in Berlin (which now seems a lifetime ago). Having visited the city just last March, this trip’s aim was to practice our German ‘skills’, see the sights we didn’t manage to see last time and to experience some of the cool suburbs Berlin has to offer.

Whilst there we racked up a daily average of 27,000 steps. But do not fear, the calories burnt were soon topped up with booze and food.

Friday night after lots of German beer in Neukölln we headed to the Quasimodo jazz club in Charlottenburg to see Alexandra Savior perform. She was good, but as often happens didn’t even play our favourite song Shades!

berlin3

Saturday was spent mooching round the many vintage and independent shops. My will power somehow miraculously kicked in stopping me from spending a fortune on a beautiful handmade belt from Hoffnung or on a new pair of brogues from Zeha. That evening we hit Torstraße, having a different gin in each place and returning to our favourite smoky cocktail bar – Neue Odessa.

Berlin has a huge hipster scene. After watching a Rick Stein programme earlier in the year where he visited Berlin and called every cool place he entered ‘noir’, we also began calling these hipsters ‘noir’ and created a ‘noir scale’.

Sunday morning we ticked off the Reichstag from the tourist list. We’d booked to do this tour of the German parliament buildings last time but were too hungover to turn up. That was silly of us because I definitely recommend doing it, the views are amazing and you get a great overview of Berlin’s history, so make sure to pre-book before your visit and pick up the audio guide. Final pointer on this… it is FREE!

For lunch we headed to Kreuzberg for a famous Burgermeister and then crossed the Spree to the East Side Gallery to look at the graffiti and umpteen selfies being taken on the Berliner Mauer (wall).

On our way back to the hotel I was determined to find a Photoautomat machine just like Richard Ayoade in Travel Man. Nearly making the full journey back to Alexanderplatz and not finding a machine we decided to follow a ‘noir’ looking fellow to see what cool place he was heading to. This ‘noir’ chap all of a sudden dipped off the path under some old bits of wood, so we followed. On the other side of the wood stood what I’d been looking for, a Photoautomat machine! There was also a mini beach, fire pit, food huts, a bar and Bob Dylan blasting from the speakers. Holzmarkt was an amazing find.

Berlin, once again you were a blast. See you next year! x

April Book Review

Since getting a Kindle back in February I have managed to worm my way through 9 books. I set myself a challenge on Good Reads to conquer 24 books in 2017. So far I’m not doing too bad.

In April I read 4 books and started a 5th. In this review I would like to talk about 3 of those books.

The Cows

Written by an idol of mine (Dawn O’Porter) and released just last month. It begins with such a poignant opening passage regarding a cow and it’s comparison to a woman’s stereotype, to reproduce and be used solely for milk or beef. A story of three very different women whose lives somehow intertwine around sex, men, struggles, independence, family, the media and babies. This book was emotional, inspiring and entertaining. I give it 5/5.

“COW n. /ka?/

A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Don’t follow the herd.”

101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free

Written by Anna Pitt I read this on a train journey to London. It is a great book, set out in a simple format of three parts – a short passage covering the various topics such as waste, water, food and energy – the maths, what savings you can make both in money and helping the planet – the tips, a quirky illustration alongside tips from real people.

Many of the tips covered, if I am honest, are common sense and already how I live my life. However some of the facts around how much we waste in the UK were fascinating and I did find some tips really helpful. I give it 4/5.

“The average UK household uses around 500 litres of water every day and about a third of that water is flushed straight down the toilet!

#GIRLBOSS

Having recently watched the new Netflix series Girlboss all in one sitting on a Saturday afternoon (loved every vintage minute), I did some digging into what the show was based on and found that it surprisingly was originally a book. Written by the creator of Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso, this book is full of inspiration on how to become #GIRLBOSS.

Sophia tells the tale of how she grew her business from selling vintage on ebay to become a huge successful corporation. What I gathered from the book is that the key to success is to find what you are passionate about, combine that with what you are good at, and work ridiculously hard. This book isn’t supposed to be a feminist book, but from reading it, I’d say it is. I give it 4/5. I also give the Netflix series 4/5 (fabulous clothes and soundtrack).

“I’m telling you that you don’t have to choose between smart and sexy. You can have both. You are both.”

I hope you’ve found this helpful! Stay posted for my May Book Review…

Choose Love

As much as I bought a Choose Love item to help provide aid to the 60 million refugees fleeing brutal conditions, I was also drawn to the traceability of the t-shirt.

unnamed.jpg

The t-shirts are made from certified 100% organic cotton in an ethically accredited, wind-powered factory.

The below interactive traceability map shows the supply chain of their products. Starting with the cotton being plucked in India, transportation by camel to be sewn, shipped to Southampton, then taken to Isle of Wight for printing.

Untitled.png

This level of open, honest traceability is great. More brands should start doing this, because only when you know exactly where the supply chain is can you manage the risks in that area.

Many celebs have endorsed the t-shirt raising awareness not only on the refugee crisis but the importance of ethical and eco products. Lets hope us purchasing these tops can help in some way.

Choose Love.

Saturday Shop

I don’t often go shopping. It’s always busy, people are annoying and on most high-streets I HATE what’s on offer. Yesterday however I braved the grim weather  and annoyances and spent the day shopping in Nottingham.

Before going I did some research on vintage and independent stores to go visit. Nottingham, it turns out, has plenty!

Vintage

I love vintage, not only is it the most sustainable kind of purchase (apart from not buying at all) but the quality and design of retro clothes are just so much better.

unnamed-2

On my visit to Nottingham I went into Cow, Wild, Braderie and Hopkinson‘s and managed to treat myself to a new dress and cardigan.

unnamed-1

Not going to lie, vintage shopping takes more effort than browsing an organised rail in Marks and Sparks. But it is fun having a trawl through rails and piles of retro clobber. Laughing at some of the styles, being slightly frustrated that an amazing item is 10 times too small or big and falling in love with something that has a little rip or stain is all part and parcel of the experience.
unnamed-3

Vintage items are not just “used clothes”, they’re a piece of history, both in the historical sense and on a personal level. Think about the people who wore them, what’s their story?

Other advantages – Tonnes and tonnes of clothing ends up at landfill every week. Buying vintage lessens this waste. The cost of creating a brand new piece of clothing is not only expensive monetarily but environmentally, through the use of natural resources and the creation of pollution. Buying something that already exists reduces that cost.

Give it a go, shop vintage!

Independent

Hidden up a side street a pretty window display caught my eye. I decided to pop in and have a browse. Stick and Ribbon is one of the friendliest shops I’ve ever been in. Filled with one off, independent pieces I was welcomed and shown what was on offer.

A few weeks back when I was doing research for ethical lingerie I came across Kinky Knickers, and to my delight Stick and Ribbon stocked their items. Kinky Knickers is a British handmade lingerie brand that partners with Mary Portas. Sewn in Manchester with love and care, their pants are designed to be comfy, have no VPL and to look pretty.

unnamed-12

I couldn’t resist. Bought myself a pair. Not just a great quality pair of pants, but they provided a giggle. Hidden in their washing guidelines was a handy tip:

“Wash similar colours together. Use colour safe detergent (or give it to your mother – she’ll know what to do.”

It is these personal touches that make buying independent so very worth it. But don’t worry Mam, I’ll wash them myself!