This week in Oslo, Norway, the world’s leading human rights activists, defenders and journalists from outlets including CNN, BBC, Vice, Wired and Newsweek, have come together to keep the world’s attention focused on human rights abuses in authoritarian governments and closed societies and show strength and solidarity to defend democracy.
In listening to Leyla Hussein Somali anti-FGM activist, Vian Dakhil sharing the struggles of the Yazidi, Raed Al Saleh of White Helmets‘ bravery in rescuing Syrian citizens, and to Bangladeshi regime-challenging blogger Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, a through line in all these conversations was the bravery of common citizens, particularly youth and women, to rise up against violence and terror to fight for their beliefs.
Across all of the difficult and inspiring testimonials it was clear that neither governments nor companies were going to fix broken systems. It is citizens rising up, speaking out and joining together who are on the front lines, and as Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, shared in her opening remarks, “the bedrock of any democratic society.”
So what does defending democracy have to do with the conscious fashion movement?
We buy 80 billion clothes each year. That’s up 400% in 2 decades. It’s what we call fast fashion. Think of fast fashion like fast food – we were promised fast food was convenient but it turns out it was making us sick. Fast Fashion is no different.
Cotton for our clothes is picked in China and Uzbekistan and fast fashion is often stitched in Cambodia, Bangladesh and increasingly Myanmar. Starting to see a pattern?
Fashion brands have rushed into countries ruled by dictators, where there is limited legal enforcement, corruption and it is dangerous for workers to raise their voices in dissent.
It takes a 100 human hands to bring every piece of our clothes to life. Of the millions of people who make our clothes, 80% are women in their early twenties. She, much like the brave women we heard from in Oslo, is a #girlboss, often the sole breadwinner supporting 5 family members on her salary. The media paints her as a victim making us feel a sense of apathy about poor brown people far away. No different from how we as a world have forgotten the Yazidi plight or refugee crisis.
In Oslo we had the world re-meet the incredible makers of our fashion. Like Rubina from our Made in Pakistan film. Makers who are not victims but #girlbosses that needs to be a core part of our consciousness.
We mobilized the audience who cares deeply about human rights and women’s empowerment to think about their fashion choices as a core part of wearing their values.
So how can we support the hardworking women on the other side of our fashion?
Step 1: Break up with fast fashion. Simply saying no to brands that make billions in sales and pass on less than 4% to the women who make our clothes.
Step 2: Buy better by combining style x ethics.
We hope you will join our movement. Share your thoughts with us, your voice matters. Together we #remakeourworld.