BEYOND20 The oligopoly of the mainstreamin itself is

unsustainable, and is ensuring that the whole industry remains unsustainable because it allows no space. It is one of the least inclusive industries I’ve ever seen. It imposes standards which murder young brands, rather than encourage them. So that’s why we need to see a bottom-up

approach. I’m very proud the Fashion Revolution has always had a bottom-up approach. We’re a people-like movement; we need to see that reflected on the high street.


Is there anything that you think that the policy-makers can and should do to sup- port a more bottom-up approach?

I do believe that it is a question of giving opportunities where there has also been a

lot of exploitation. So one level would be to include those designers of countries where the product is being made, and ensuring that they are not just a producing country, but a country that is capable of creating their own skill, the role that those heroes have belongs to us all. If I can give you an example from Covid-19, we’ve got a generation of six-year-olds who have com- pletely stopped looking at superfluous heroes to really manifest their joy and their support for doctors and nurses. Also in fashion, we’re seeing a real move-

ment of respect towards the people in the sup- ply chain, and I do know that Fashion Revolution was very much instrumental in bringing visibility to garment workers and ensuring that Western consumers are aware that it is people often struggling with their per- sonal lives making those clothes. So these are the heroes we need to have. And we need to cre- ate a system where it is not the pinnacle, not the designer, but the entirety of the supply chain that is allowed to thrive, that will create alternatives.


So what is your perception? Has this model of global value chains in the fash-

ion industry managed to deliver some improvements to localcommunities?

There is a fundamental word missing. We’ve been providing jobs, but we’ve not

been providing good jobs. You know, I would beg you to think about the life of a garment in the Rana Plaza factory complex the day before the factory collapsed, and they were aware of the fact that the walls were crumbling. And then they crumbled. Do you consider that to be an improvement to our community? How is that possibly considered an improvement? The fact is thatwewere exploiting thembefore, and we’ve continued to do so. So, that’s where it went wrong. In all honesty, it’s very patronis- ing that we think that giving someone peanuts is better than them having nothing. Well, maybewhen they had nothing, they were free.

Q Any successes at all? April/May 2021


mally is up to the factory owner to really care for their surroundings. And, of course, there are some wonderful examples ofamazing oper- ations that go above and beyond their duty, but unfortunately, they are the exception and not the rule. There’s a lot that we could learn from them, but we choose not to. There areyoungergenerationsinBangladesh,


Sri Lanka andIndia being broughtupin this situ- ationandamelioratingtheconditionsnotjust for themselves, but for everybody else.There is a phe- nomenal groupof very youngupcyclists, in India, using up quantities of waste from their local fac- tories. Why do we not see them everywhere? That’s where the innovation lies, and that’s why we need to not just elevate the people that work in the supply chain but to give them equal chances to the ones thatwe’vehad. Because often that intelligence, that innovation, that knowl- edgecomes frominsidethefactories. It couldwell be somebody that was born and bred in that fac- tory and that has seen the positives and the nega- tives, and I feel that the transparency and visibil- itywould highlight theimportance of these reali- ties. Innovation is just as likely, if not more likely, tocome fromthe countries thathave beenmanu- facturingso thereforehave beenamassivepart of the problem. And the truth is that brands are inevitably

realising the importance of actually improving these communities and their environment now. They’re now beginning to really see the importance when it comes to their brand, but it’s still self protection, it’s still because they have to save face.


Have you seen any cases of a country being able to bring back some of the sup-

ply chain?

I am quite enamoured with the Italian industry. There is a type of industry which I

call artigianato industrial, it’s like industrial artisans, where the smaller is celebrated and transparency and innovation is really in the DNA of the people that live and work in those realities. The entire city of Prato, which, as far as I’m concerned is leading the way in innova- tion, and really innovation starts fromthe gut. It’s very civilised andamazing to watch.■

Orsola de Castro is the founder of Fashion Revolution


I have seen somereally very beautiful facto- ries in producing countries. And it nor-


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