The Fashion Revolution Raising Awareness For Bangladesh Factory Workers


On April 24th, 2013, a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed in the Rana Plaza complex, killing 1133 people and injuring 25oo more. Bangladesh is the world’s second largest clothing exporter, and this is thanks to the low wages it pays its factory workers, and scant regulations. The electricity is unreliable, the roads are poor, and the country itself is politically unstable. Needless to say, these garment workers have no local advocates for their safety and well-being. They are at the mercy of whatever conditions they are thrown into, simply to survive and make a living.

The factory collapse last year brought home the reality that something needs to be done about this and the rest of the world needs to be made aware of the unfair situations existing in these factories. On the one year anniversary of the event, some cool things have been happening to raise awareness and advocate a change in the fashion industry A group called the Fashion Revolution was launched, and it is a social movement which encourages every citizens as well as industry organizations to force change.

On April 24th 2014 the organization encouraged everyone to turn their clothes inside out and upload a picture of them wearing it using the hashtag #insideout to show which label is it. There are a number of labels which have been called out publicly for unashamedly turning a blind eye to the poor conditions their own garment makers work in.

Fashion Revolution founder Carry Somers recruited a group of activists, friends and colleagues who were already working in the field to form Fashion Revolution. FR’s executive director is Oceana Lott who is an eco-friendly fashion blogger. They hope the social movement will fuel conversation and spark ideas for how we in the western world can help make this situation different for all those involved.

“We really want to start this conversation about who makes these clothes,” Oceana said in an interview with Fashionista. “We want people to be curious, we want them to do research, we want them to really find out and demand answers to this question from brands, especially major retailers.”


The Rana Plaza collapse is not an isolated event. In fact there have been numerous events including factory fires in 2012 and 2013. But did we see much coverage about this in mainstream news and blogs? Of course not, and that’s why social movements which mobilize the masses are vital.

Brands such as Gap, Walmart, Nautica and United Colors of Bennetton have been exposed as some of the perpetrators using the factories involved in the above incidents. But Oceana says this movement is also about naming the brands who do the right thing when it comes to making their clothes.

Rag & Bone, Everlane Eileen Fischer and Jigsaw London as places that are great to shop for ethical options. It’s as much about the positive as the negative.

“I think it would be great to have all those categories — eco-fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable fashion — disappear, because all clothes are made fairly and justly,” Lott explains.

The end game for Fashion Revolution is to change the way that we shop for clothes in a way that’s beneficial for both the consumer and the worker.

“People will be so surprised how easy it can be to make a difference. Everybody says, ‘I can’t do it, I’m one person,'” Lott says. “But you have to remember, that’s how the Civil Rights movement started! Rosa Parks was just one person. She just chose to sit — she didn’t know she was launching the Civil Rights movement in one act.”

The other component of how the Bangladesh Factory collapse anniversary is sparking change is through The Model Alliance founder and activist Sara Ziff. Her organization was started to fight for the rights and protection of underage models, and now is is stretching its limbs further afield for social justice in Bangladesh.

Sara spent some time in Bangladesh in 2013 and filmed a documentary called ‘Tangled Thread’ which sees her going to a number of factories and talking with people about the conditions they work in. She has spoken about her cause back at home in New York to make people aware of what is going on at the root of the fashion industry.

“The fashion industry should empower women, not exploit them,” Ziff said to Vogue UK. “This industry is a global, multi-trillion dollar business that is built on the backs of young women and girls, who – across the supply chain, from the runways of New York to the factories of Bangladesh – are trying to have a voice in their work. The beauty of fashion is that it’s about freedom of expression; democracy shouldn’t stop when we go to work.”


After forming the Model Alliance, Sara read about the torture and murder of Aminul Islam, a Bangladeshi activist who was rallying fellow factoy workers who  made clothes for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger.

“As a model who had worked as a face of that brand, I was shocked and outraged, and I decided to go to Bangladesh to see the conditions on the ground,” she says.

In the last year, over 150 companies have signed onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a landmark agreement that is transparent, legally binding, and holds brands accountable for the conditions in the factories that make their clothes. H&M, Marks & Spencer, PVH, the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, and many others have all signed onto this agreement. There is still a long way to go and Sara says consumers have have influence over these powerful people by signing petitions online and forcing their hand, just like Oceana said about the Fashion Revolution movement.

“Consumers have all the power to make a difference to the lives of millions of workers by being aware and making informed choices,” she asserted. “Of the four million garment workers in Bangladesh, 80 per cent are women. These women earn the lowest wages in the world and are struggling to assert their rights in a hostile labor environment. Until recently, the minimum wage in Bangladesh was just $38 per month, which has been raised to $68 per month. Still, workers in Bangladesh’s garment industry are making slave wages, and, in many cases, they’re not earning enough to feed their families, even in a poor, developing country like Bangladesh.”

“We live in a global economy, and it’s a very exciting time to think about fashion as a new frontier for workers’ rights and women’s rights. As consumers, it’s empowering to think that each purchase we make can not only be a fun shopping experience, but can also really change the world for the better.”

Our call to action is to be aware of the conditions it takes to get our clothes made, be mindful of the person who worked hard to create a garment to make you look good in that Instagram shot, and to find an online petition you can sign via the Fashion Revolution website. Watch Sara’s documentary below to see a glimpse of where clothes really come from. Hint: it’s not a runway in Paris or New York…



12 thoughts on “The Fashion Revolution Raising Awareness For Bangladesh Factory Workers

  1. Fashion Revolution founder Carry Somers recruited a group of activists, friends and colleagues who were already working in the field to form Fashion Revolution. FR’s executive director is Oceana Lott who is an eco-friendly fashion blogger.

  2. Hi, its too late, i have read the fantastic post. Fashion revolution is changing rapidly throughout the world. As a developing country, Bangladesh has good role in the industry of Apparel & Garments. In Bangladesh female workers are higher than male workers. I seem females are naturally fashionable. If garments industry take care of all worker, we believe, revolution will be flooded.

  3. Bangladesh is the Fashion revolution in the world. And it is true that As a developing country, Bangladesh has a role in garments and garments industries in the world. Our country’s women are playing a special role here. So we need care and our Government needs to take the step.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.