On 11/11, Single’s Day in China, Chinese shoppers broke all records spending $30.8 billion in sales with over 1 billion delivery orders made. 165 million people shopped all through #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday. With the rise of online retailers trying to keep up with Amazon and the growing customer expectations of delivery speed, a NY Times investigation discussed the human toll — of workers under extreme pressure to meet delivery targets. A story that stayed with me was of an unwell warehouse worker who fell to her death. Other workers were told to work around her body to keep shipping orders because customers wanted their packages on time.
In reflecting on the magnitude of our insatiable consumption, the staggering human and environmental costs, it is hard to not just wring our hands and want to give-up. Yet as we close out this tumultuous year, here are three reasons why I remain audaciously hopeful:
The women who make our clothes are fighters
For too long the media has painted garment makers in a colonial brush stroke of meek victims awaiting their white saviours. Yet from Myanmar, to Cambodia to Bangladesh garment makers have been fighting back, this year in particular, demanding higher wages and safer conditions.
At Remake we have been to ten countries to meet the makers of our clothes. This year we expanded our reach to Sri Lanka and Mexico. Each time we pass the mic back to makers, I am awestruck. She is no victim. No meek docile woman. She is resilient, fierce and powerful.
She is rising up to demand a seat at the table, working hard to keep her siblings and children in school and pushing back against ingrained systems of patriarchy and misogyny.
In Sri Lanka, there is Ashila Niroshi, of Stand-Up Lanka, who saw the abuses of the garment industry first hand, sued her employer and won. She is now going door to door, teaching makers their rights and building a movement to demand better conditions. In Mexico we met Reina who began working in maquilas at the age of 14 and is now an activist. She shared,“My biggest dream used to be to get married, now it is to empower as many women as I can.”
I am thankful for the bonds we have made with garment makers around the world — woman to woman and our ability to bring those connections back to shoppers around the world through our films. With increased access to smartphones and social media, she is tapping into networks of activists across the globe. I believe 2018 has been the year the invisible voices of the women and communities most impacted by our fashion to be more visible. Once you hear her, you can’t unhear what she has to say.
The chorus for conscious fashion is growing
Vogue Australia dedicated a whole issue to sustainable fashion with Emma Watson guest editing their March magazine. A whooping 66 percent of millennials are willing to spend more on brands that are sustainable worldwide, according to Business of Fashion. One in three women shopped second hand this year. The resale market grew 24x faster than traditional retail with disruptors like ThredUp, RealReal and Poshmark leading the way. Second hand no longer means compromising on style. Rent the Runway ended the year with 9 million members and is just shy of $100 million in revenue.
Rental is here to stay and a key piece of the puzzle to slow down our consumption.
This year, Remake’s ambassador community grew 10x. From California to Delaware, Arizona to New York, we have welcomed fashion design students, artists, influencers and bloggers to spread the word, share our films and take our pledge to shop sustainably.
Sustainable x stylish brands are on the rise
In Business of Fashion’s 2018 the State of Fashion Report, the leading industry publication said “sustainability will be at the centre of innovation in the fashion industry in 2018.” According to the report, 42 out of 100 fashion brands in 2017 disclosed supplier information. And as established brands embrace the importance of sustainable fabrics and ethical business models, more and more smaller designers are starting with sustainability as mission number one. From new locally made stores popping up in urban hubs, to breakthrough stars like AllBirds, Alternative Apparel and Study New York, sustainable fashion today is a far cry from what was once the land of hemp sacks and dulled colors.
Now there is something for everyone’s style, budget and size.
When our sustainable style curation went live, we welcomed over 100,000 site visitors, proving that there is a hunger to discover fashion that matches our values. We were excited to evaluate over 145 brands and give our seal of approval to 55 brands.
Looking back on the past year, there is so much to celebrate and much more to do. As our community grows, the abusers and scapegoaters in the fashion industry don’t stand a chance. We will see the end of fast fashion.