A Surround Sound Approach to Sustainable Fashion: Four Years after the Rana Plaza Factory Collapse

By: Sophie Komornicki, Marketing Associate

Today marks the beginning of Fashion Revolution Week remembering the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which many deem the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry. The tragedy, which took place on April 24, 2013, brought the fashion industry’s supply chain issues to light and sparked a global conversation between companies, consumers and workers. Over the past four years since the factory collapse, all players within the fashion industry have joined the conversation about improving working conditions and supply chain transparency. Here are a few highlights from the last 12 months:

  • Building on the success of its #InsideOut campaign, Fashion Revolution is enlisting the power of influencers to spread its message of the true cost of fashion. Earlier this year, the nonprofit wrote an open letter inviting fashion and beauty influencers to approach fashion in a different way. The #haulternative guide serves as a replacement for popular haul videos in which vloggers share their recent large clothing purchases with viewers. Instead of sharing new purchases from brands with vague sustainability commitments, influencers were encouraged to swap clothing with other YouTube stars, go thrifting, patch up a broken but loved item, or simply embrace the worn wear look. Several vloggers including CutiePieMarzia (over 7M subscribers) and Grav3yardgirl (over 7.9M subscribers) have already embraced the effort.
  • Last month, a new campaign titled ‘Safe Workplaces, Go ahead Bangladesh’ was launched to raise awareness on basic Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) issues for workers in the apparel sector. The Ministry of Labor and Employment and the International Labor Organization jointly launched the radio-based campaign which will broadcast a series of 19 30-minute episodes educating workers on specific OSH issues including ‘what to do in an emergency,’ electrical safety and earthquakes as well as life skills topics like good housekeeping and hygiene. To bring the campaign to life and increase recognition Bangladeshi actor, Mosharraf Karim, will participate in a number of campaign activities.
  • For fledgling apparel brands looking to align with the global movement of sustainable innovation from the get-go, Fashion for Good launched ‘Plug and Play – Fashion for Good’, a new accelerator program which attracted over 250 applicants. The Amsterdam-based initiative hopes that the new accelerator will provide resources to help solve environmental issues by connecting textile startups with large retailers such as Walmart and Target. A final selection of 12 start-ups helping the world reimagine how fashion is designed, made, worn and reused have been awarded a spot in the program.

Rana Plaza was the match that sparked a global dialogue around supply chain issues, and the fashion industry has slowly been making improvements to the social and environmental issues that surfaced in 2013. By engaging, educating and equipping all members of the process with pertinent resources, the industry can continue the discussion that started four years and begin to address transparency issues that many brands still face today in a more holistic manner.