“We have the power of the handbag”: why it is our duty to maintain the good things that happen in fashion
Another movement underway to support garment workers’ rights is the push in Europe for legislation and regulation – and it is gathering pace. The Circle, a global NGO founded ten years ago by singer / songwriter and human rights activist Annie Lennox to fight for women’s equality, security and economic empowerment, last week published Fashion Focus, a report proposing new EU legislation ensuring global supply chains receive a living wage. If successful, such legislation could end “the poverty wage injustice suffered by millions of garment workers, 80% of whom are women,” the report said. This follows the German government’s announcement in February that it is drafting legislation to force brands and retailers to comply with social and environmental regulations throughout their supply chains, and would hold German companies accountable. of any violation, regardless of where they occur. The legislation is expected to be adopted in the fall and come into force in 2023.
“Legislation is needed to address structural market failures, which cannot be addressed simply through due diligence statements or voluntary agreements,” says Fashion Focus report author Jessica Simor, lawyer at Matrix Chambers. “If we are serious about protecting human rights and promoting sustainable development, then workers cannot continue to receive wages that do nothing more than support poverty.” The Circle is currently raising funds to support lobbying efforts for the legislation. “The fashion industry needs tighter regulation,” says Beth Vaughan, communications and campaigns manager for The Circle. “We have to force it with legislation. This is what changes the game. “
On the fashion climate front: During the pandemic, there was positive progress – most of it born from the fact that during lockdowns there was no business. The changes include fewer fashion shows – most of them digital; fewer collections; less overproduction; less waste. In February, the Washington-based law advocacy organization Politically In Fashion sent a letter, signed by dozens of brands, NGOs and activists, to President Joe Biden asking him to appoint a “czar.” de la mode ”to oversee environmental, labor, health and production issues in the United States. and carry out the necessary reforms. There has not yet been a response from the White House, but the initiative is gaining ground in Congress. Biden, however, announced this week that he is aiming for the United States to halve its carbon emissions by 2030, which will require fashion companies, large US conglomerates such as PVH, which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, to small independents, to change the way they do business. In short: greenwashing no longer washes.
Yes, 2020 has been a lousy year. But good things are happening in fashion, both for humanity and for the planet. And as consumers, we can keep the momentum going – by adopting better buying habits, supporting advocacy campaigns and making noise when brands fall back into bad habits such as underpaying workers and polluting. . We have the power of the handbag. Let us use it for the good of all.
Dana Thomas is editor-in-chief of British Vogue; his book, ‘Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothing’, is available for purchase here.