Are you sitting next to someone right now? Great. Now here’s what we want you to do. Check what’s written on the cloth tag of the shirt or dress they’re wearing. Did you see it? The tag that says ‘Made in….’?
This week, the Fashion Revolution Week kicks off world over. Over the last few years a rising tribe of conscious consumers have been asking brands, who made their clothes? Back until 2013, people didn’t know at what cost their clothing was being manufactured. But when the Rana Plaza building collapse killed more than 1,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh, people became aware of the perils of fast fashion and the impact it had on human lives.
As a fashion brand that wants to pull the curtains between the makers and wearers, we believe in the power of asking ‘who made your clothes’. People have used fashion revolution week to challenge top notch brands, many of whom still don’t have the answer to the question, ‘#whomademyclothes’? But there are many brands, like ours, that have insights into their supply chain and are happy to share images of their artisans or factory workers to empower this growing movement.
It’s a question that everyone’s asking and rightly so. Turn your garments inside out and the tag always tells you where it was made. From Bangladesh to Vietnam, the hangtags tell you about where your product was stitched into a final garment. But here’s what it doesn’t tell you: who made the cloth itself? Where was the material created and under what circumstances? What happens at the beginning of this entire making process? Where did the cotton that your shirt was made from grow? Who dyed the yarn? And what was the impact on all those people and the environment before the garment was stitched? Today these questions are hardly ever asked. But we believe that it’s time to go back to the true origins of your garment, starting from the source.
When we buy a piece of clothing, we are becoming part of a chain of events that have a far reaching impact on people and the environment. A typical clothing supply chain links the source of raw materials to the place where they are processed and turned into cloth, to the factories or units that make garments out of them and onto a network of distribution to reach the final customer (moving on to what happens after your garment is thrown away and to the people who recycle them – but let’s leave that for another time.)
While we are all asking for a fashion revolution, the question of ‘who made my clothes’ is limited to the stitching and sewing industry alone. It looks at the people who turn that material into clothes or garments. What we see on our garment hangtags addresses only one part of the production chain. When will the time come to start asking the bigger question, ‘Who made our cloth?’ or maybe even, ‘Who made the yarn’? because that is really where the story of your garment begins.
Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo: Marloes van Doorn
We’re going to let you in on a secret. The 3 of us co-founders at KARIGAR share clothes and swap shoes. It’s quite possible that you’ve seen all of us wear the same green dress or floral print skirt on more than one occasion. That we are the same shoe size (Eu 38) makes the shoe exchange pretty easy, but that we have totally different body types (not to mention style preferences) makes the clothes swapping just a teeny bit harder. Jolijn is a size 8 and likes it simple and natural. Sindhu, size 0, prefers the smart business look. And Kanak, size 8 (and 10 after a holiday) loves a bit of statement.
Now the reason we’re letting you in on this is because just today, we met someone who confesses that she owns only 60% of the clothes she wears. The rest is borrowed from Lena, the fashion library in Amsterdam. Victoria is a passionate blogger at Styleme.green and get this, she saved €3.343,15 from borrowing 40% of her wardrobe in 2017. We are terribly excited to collaborate with Victoria on our upcoming How to Wear the KARIGAR Cape video and explore the many new ways in which she’s going to drape it. And it’s also very possible that the clothes for the shoot will be ‘borrowed’ but it seems like the smartest, not to mention the most sustainable, way for us to showcase as many styles as possible.
A few years ago, sharing clothes was considered uncool and people would ask, why would you even wear something previously owned by someone else? Clothes are personal and intimate. But today, everyone from New York to Amsterdam finds ‘borrowing’ acceptable. The sharing economy means that style need not come with a budget attached. Mud Jeans allows you to lease jeans for €7.50 a month, Filippa K offers collections for rent with their leasing option for 20% of the full price. I mean, who would say no (we’re already googling their Amsterdam lending locations in another browser)? At Kleiderei, our new discovery during a recent trip to Hamburg, we discovered that it’s possible to have personalised lending – borrowed clothes delivered to your doorstep.
So if you’ve grown up wearing hand-me-downs from your older sister or brother, don’t beat yourself up. You’re right on trend.
Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo: Victoria Onken