Fashion Revolution Week happens annually, and it is a time to come together as a community to create a better fashion industry worldwide. It centres around the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,138 people and injured many more on 24th April 2013, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. This year marks 8 years since the tragedy and so Fashion Revolution Week will focus on the connections between human rights and the rights of nature. Ultimately, the aim of Fashion Revolution Week is to amplify unheard voices across the fashion supply chain as well as explore and present solutions.
The fashion industry is one of the most environmentally damaging industries that exists as well as often being one the most unethical. Around 150 billion garments are produced annually, leading to more pollution and landfill waste than ever before. It takes 2720 litres of water to make a single t-shirt, the same amount of water most of us will usually drink over a 3 year period. It is also estimated that up to 95% of landfilled textiles are actually recyclable. Not only is the impact on our planet huge, garment workers are also at the 2nd highest risk of modern slavery of all workers worldwide. In fact, a recent study of workers in India’s garment industry found that 99.2% of workers were subject to conditions of forced labour. That’s why it is so important to us to support small, ethical businesses with sustainable practises that align with our own ethics, both as a business and as individuals.
And it isn't just fast fashion that is the problem. Known as 'fast homewares', many well known chain retailers produce huge amounts of cheap homewares every single day. Most things we buy for our homes are single-use and non-recyclable, meaning homewares should be of high quality and cherished for years to come - but we know that this isn't the case. The speed at which trends come and go, especially in interior design, means there are always new products being made, most of which are not made ethically or sustainably.
Take a quick glance around your home, do you know where the cotton for your bed sheets was sourced? Is the plastic used to make those party cups recycled? Are you really going to love that gold pineapple decoration forever? We are all guilty of falling trap to the fast homeware system, as it was designed to make us do exactly that. But these products are incredibly wasteful. In America more than 12 million tonnes of furniture and furnishings are thrown away every year. 9 million of these end up in landfill. IKEA uses almost 1% of all the world’s wood. They use this resource to make Billy Bookcases at the rate of 15 per minute. (We are not trying to single out IKEA, they actually have an impressive sustainability programme, including a commitment to use only sustainable cotton and cabinets made from recycled bottles). Each new sofa produced has an average carbon footprint of 90kg, which is equivalent to driving 220 miles.
Another huge problem is that there are so many companies now mimicking the looks of traditional craft and mass producing baskets and other homewares, creating cheap alternatives to artisan products that have definitely not been ethically or sustainably sourced. This is an example of green-washing, huge conglomerates attempt to make themselves look more sustainable whilst not actually making any real changes. Many of the large homeware producing chains are not transparent about where their products are produced or how the workers producing them are treated, which leads us to believe they have something to hide.
Buying authentic, ethically produced, traditional crafts is not just better for the environment, it means the world to those who produce the products you love. We work directly with all of our artisans, ensuring they are all paid fairly for their hard work. Traditional crafts are deeply rooted in rich, cultural history and often get passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. One of the biggest offenders for mass-produced homewares that copy traditional crafts is baskets. Hand-woven baskets take a long time to produce, and the craft takes years to master. Different regions and different countries all have different styles of weaving, making it easy to identify where each basket has come from. The cheap copies made by high-street retailers do not have any of this heritage, and instead attempt to copy the appearance of traditional baskets whilst not paying the masters of these crafts for their handiwork.
For many of the artisans we work with, keeping these traditional crafts alive is vital. Our Kenyan baskets are produced by a group of fiercely talented women. Women are the main breadwinners in this region and income from basket weaving helps support them during droughts when subsistence farming goes into decline. The area is also rife with poaching and charcoal burning - both a lucrative form of income in an area where jobs are very scarce. Creating alternative revenue streams such as basket weaving helps conservation by decreasing the need for these harmful practices. The sale of our baskets encourages the craft of basket weaving to continue being handed down from generation to generation and keeps traditions alive. Our artisans are all incredibly talented as well as being incredibly hardworking. Improving their craft and being able to sell products to the international market means the world to them.
One of our artisans, Godwin, who represents our Ghanaian Mask makers says
"It’s indeed fulfilling to see your works being sold across the globe. You could see the joy on the faces of these artisans when I show them the images of their products on foreign websites being sold."
The fantastic group of artisans who make all of our Kenyan Soapstone products say that the work they do allows them to "chase away poverty from our group and entire community by ensuring there is food, shelter, clothes, clean water to drink, medical facilities and better education to our children."
Buying authentic, traditional crafts gives back to the communities who have spent decades refining the craft that you love. Don't accept cheap copies, for the sake of our planet and its people.
Of course, buying new ethical homewares isn't the only way to make more sustainable choices when it comes to your interior decor. Buying second-hand is a great option, especially for more trend based pieces that you might not be keeping for years. Second-hand homewares are often cheaper alternatives to buying new and prevents perfectly good items from ending up in landfill. Boot fairs, charity shops, eBay, Facebook Market Place, Gumtree and many other sites are great places to look out for homewares. If you are in need of something in particular, online market places are really useful as you can use the search function to find exactly what you are looking for. It is also important to look after the things you have and repair them if they are broken. A rip in a cushion can be easily repaired, rather than throwing the whole item away. For bigger jobs such as a broken bookcase, look into hiring a local carpenter to fix the problem for you. Almost everything can be fixed and then you can continue to enjoy your homewares for years to come! If something is no longer of use to you, look into donating it to charity or selling it to someone who will love it rather than taking it straight to the tip. The best thing you can do when shopping for your home is to consider each and every purchase. Buying high quality items that will last for years will not only be great for the environment, it will save you a lot of money too!
Everything we sell at Artisans & Adventurers has been made with our core values in mind. The welfare of our artisans is at the heart of what we do, as is our commitment to sustainability. We believe transparency in our supply chain is key. We are proud of the way we do business and the close relationships we have built with all of our artisans over the years. As such, we are incredibly passionate about this year's Fashion Revolution theme 'Rights, Relationships, Revolution'. You can read more about our sustainable global supply chain here, and we are always happy to answer any further questions you may have.
To celebrate Fashion Revolution Week this year, we will be holding a sample sale over on our Instagram on Friday 23rd April. We will be donating 5% of the profits to Fashion Revolution so that they can continue the fantastic work that they do.