Now in its fifth year, the sustainable fashion non-profit Fashion Revolution is looking to build upon its social media momentum to forge partnerships with prominent designers and roll out educational tools to galvanize the retail community around ethical fashion.
Fashion Revolution is increasing the scope of its informational programming by ramping up panel discussions and Q&As with designers, beginning with next week’s Fashion Revolution Week. The annual effort, held in tandem with Earth Day, includes a series of global events in 70 of its member cities, as well as an Instagram campaign intended to raise awareness of the effort. Thanks in part to its buzzy social media campaigns, Fashion Revolution has gained the support of several influential leaders in sustainable fashion, including Stella McCartney, Mara Hoffman, Maison de Mode’s Amanda Hearst and Garmentory’s Miranda Bennett, who will all participate in next week’s events.
This year also marks the first time that Fashion Revolution will be recognized as an official education non-governmental organization in the United States, part of an effort to better integrate sustainability coursework into both higher education and primary and secondary programs. As a result, Fashion Revolution is launching a student ambassador program in partnership with fashion design schools like Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons and Rhode Island School of Design, in addition to Ivy League colleges like Harvard and Yale.
“One of the things we’ll be working on this year is to connect more of the schools with each other to share ideas and have open-source sharing,” said Lauren Fay, executive director of Fashion Revolution U.S.
While Fashion Revolution was founded mostly to raise awareness — compared to organizations like Fashion Positive and the Sustainable Fashion Coalition, which act as industry think-tanks to identify more technical solutions — the group hopes to become more of a catalyst for sustainable change. For example, this year, Fashion Revolution expanded the scope of its Fashion Transparency Index, a resource that ranks retailers based on transparency efforts. The updated report includes more in-depth analysis across a wider swatch of companies, and more thoroughly examines supply chain and production protocols. (Though retailer C&A funds the report, Fashion Revolution maintains that it does not influence the results.)
Ultimately, Fashion Revolution aims to unite brands and consumers together for a collective cause. Though 2017 was a watershed year in transparency for some retailers — for example, companies like Gap Inc.’s Athleta became one of the only retailers to achieve B Corps certification — others like H&M continued to falter. Fay said that, though mass brands continue to face insurmountable challenges when it comes to sustainability, 2017 was particularly promising for fledgling companies and startups that are incorporating sustainability into their DNA from the onset.
“The challenge with the larger companies is turning those ships around involves multiple layers, and there are thousands of people involved in the process,” Fay said. “Some of these companies are like small countries. But they are showing that they are putting the policies in place and increasing the governing aspects of their companies to make sure people are being held accountable.”
Fay said Fashion Revolution’s growth is emblematic of how a grassroots digital movement can translate into tangible impact. This year, the company is once again asking Instagram users to push for retail transparency by sharing photos with the hashtag #WhoMadeYourClothes. In 2017, the campaign amassed 535 million impressions, a more than 250 percent increase than the year before, inspiring participation from celebrities like actress Rosario Dawson and model Laura Wells.
“[Social media] is our main tool. It has become a great voice for the consumer,” Fay said. “It’s tough to say without sounding facetious that it has directly caused the industry to make changes, since there are other NGOs and players pushing for the same thing, but I think our social media platform has made it a very easily digestible way to engage.”