Fashion Revolution Week 2022 runs from 18-24 April, and is the world’s largest fashion activism movement. It was created to mark the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,138 people and injured many more in 2013.
The aim of the campaign is to see a world where every worker who makes our clothes is seen, heard and paid properly and that their living and working environments are safe. We do not want to see another Rana Plaza disaster and through Fashion Revolution we are seeing that the fashion industry is starting to listen. However, the journey has just started and we need to ensure that the culture of consumption is changed.
This year we spoke with Welsh textile designer and Climate Justice Activist – Ophelia Dos Santos, who advocates for environmental action and sustainability within fashion. Ophelia told us more about her work, what climate justice activism means and how you can change your relationship with fast fashion.
Ophelia’s creative works focus on hand embroidery by repairing and repurposing clothing and textile waste. Through her practice she facilitates inclusive community workshops; creating a space to discuss climate change and fashion, whilst teaching simple embroidery techniques to inspire everyday actions. In this co-learning space, attendees are also able to learn from each other through exploring and sharing their individual relationships with fashion.
Tell us about yourself and your work within the fashion industry
“Earlier in my career I was set on entering the fashion industry, though later found that the industry’s culture of over-consumption and over-production didn’t quite match my values. Today, I use my skills to facilitate workshops with local organisations and charities. I find an extreme sense of purpose and fulfilment in producing works and events that are of service to my community.”
Ophelia works with many communities where English is not a common first language, she notes that “embroidery it can be a tool to speak to people, a way of communicating ideas and information, speaking through demonstration rather than speech.” Ophelia aims to “reach marginalised communities that are typically less engaged with the climate conversation, providing a space for listening to and amplifying those voices.”
Ophelia acknowledges that repairing clothes has previously been seen as a sign of poverty or something to be ashamed of. She says “we can reclaim that. It’s a way of taking part in a revolution which is about saving the planet.”
“I want to inspire conversation and environmental learning, whilst holding brands accountable for their impact to the planet. I believe educating people of how brands exploit marketing is part of the solution, many people are still unaware of green washing strategies – the way in which brands mislead customers about their environmental commitments.
What does it mean to be a climate justice activist?
“For me, climate justice activism is about accessible activism and creating spaces inclusive of all communities – environmental activism has to be intersectional. It is important to shine a light on the human cost of our consumption and neglect to the planet. We should all strive to make more connections with people and the environment around us. As well as connections and attachments to the things we own.”
What does Fashion Revolution Week mean to you?
Ophelia was made aware of Fashion Revolution Week over the last couple of years, through her larger online presence.
“The Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 was a huge turning point for Western brands. For me, Fashion Revolution is about making people aware of the damages that the fashion industry creates and how our individual actions can help prevent further destruction. It is space for people to learn, inspire and connect; for example, learning to sew and advocating for better working condition in garment factories. I believe it is important to encourage a stronger connection to the things we own, especially clothes. We wear clothes everyday yet rarely question ‘where has this come from?’ or ‘who made my clothes?’ these questions are essential to valuing and appreciating material goods.”
How can individuals break away from fast fashion?
Ophelia encourages us all to “take it easy, enjoy the planet and don’t just fight for it.”
“Fast fashion has become a dirty word. We shouldn’t completely avoid it because it’s deemed ‘unsustainable’. Many of us (including me) own items of clothing from fast fashion brands, some of these items I really love! Fast fashion should not be wasted, as long as you can address your consumption habits and relationship to your clothes – any item can become better for the planet.
Fashion has a huge impact on our self-confidence, when we wear things that we like it radiates in our personality. So, if fast fashion makes you feel happy and comfortable, try buying fast fashion from charity shops or online second-hand markets (such as Depop or Vinted). You could even organise a clothes swap with your friends!”
How will you celebrate Fashion Revolution Week? Climate justice activists are running events online and in-person across the UK to mark the occasion, find an event near you.
Ophelia spoke at our event, Fair Fashion? A conversation on fashion, race and climate justice. If you missed it, you can watch it on our YouTube now.
This Fairtrade Fortnight we focussed on fashion and its impacts on the climate. Read more about how fast fashion is unfair and unethical. Also, listen to this conversation between Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice, Ranga CEO of Dibella India which works directly with cotton farmers and produces clothing directly, and Andy from Koolkompany who have Fairtrade and plastic recycled school uniforms.