Whether you’ve been a conscious consumer for years and are looking to take the next step in your journey or you’ve just learned about fashion’s harms and are ready to take big action right away, this guide will walk you through how to become a fashion activist or consumer activist.
What is Fashion Activism?
A common example of fashion activism could be a slogan t-shirt that makes a statement about a social or environmental issue.
What is Consumer Activism?
One example of consumer activism would be animal activists boycotting brands that test on animals.
What About a Fashion Consumer Activist?
There isn’t necessarily a set definition per se of fashion consumer activism, but that’s what this article will aim to narrow down.
Let’s combine the concepts of consumer activism, which is about influencing brands (and broader industries), with fashion activism, which is about using fashion to drive change.
The combination of the two gives us fashion consumer activism.
And this is about pushing the fashion industry to transform for the better, which in the process, can create positive change on social and environmental issues.
For example, we can use fashion consumer activism to demand that governments ensure all fashion brands pay all of the workers throughout their supply chain living wages.
This not only would help transform fashion into a more ethical industry, but would have vast implications on labor relations and human rights around the world.
Another example might be pushing for brands to slow down production and use more environmentally responsible materials (low impact natural fabrics, recycled materials, plant-based dyes and finishes, and so on.
This would not only create a more sustainable fashion industry, but given fashion’s impact on the planet (the industry is responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions), these shifts would have a big impact on our efforts to minimize future damage from our climate crisis.
How to Get Started With Fashion Activism
When we’re talking about these massive issues, like the climate crisis or modern-day slavery, it can feel overwhelming.
In a similar vein, solving these issues can feel insurmountable, and words like “activist” can feel intimidating.
But know that being a fashion activist doesn’t mean that you alone are taking on all of these issues on your shoulders to solve them. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Fashion activism and consumer activism (or any other type of activism) is about being part of a collective for change. Yes, you are only an individual — but you also can be part of a community and part of a broader movement.
This is the most reassuring part about activism. That you do not have to hold the weight of all of these issues on your shoulders. You do not need to be perfect. You do not need to do it all, all of the time.
We can work together as imperfect humans and imperfect activists to drive change that is bigger than any one of us could do alone.
Now that you’re (hopefully!) feeling encouraged to begin or continue your fashion activism journey, here are some ways to get going.
There are so many types of actions that you can take to push for a better fashion industry! This list provides a sampling, but is in no way a comprehensive list.
Here are some ideas for actions you can take, listed in order from least to most energy- and time-intensive.
1. Sign a Petition
Time Required: 1 minute
You might be asking if signing a petition really works. And the answer is that it depends. But petitions do have the potential to have a really big impact!
Just look at the example of Remake’s #PayUp petition launched in early 2020 after brands canceled billions of dollars worth of orders and left garment workers stranded.
The petition garnered over 250,000 signatures and eventually helped factories and garment workers recover billions of dollars in stolen wages and back-owed payments.Listen to my interview with Ayesha Barenblat, founder of Remake to learn more about the PayUp Fashion campaign.]
2. Email a Brand
Time Required: 5 minutes
Is there a brand that has pieces you absolutely love the style of but you’re not so sure about their ethics or you’re disappointed by their lack of sustainability efforts?
Don’t be afraid to let them know! Take a couple of minutes to find a few contact emails for the brand and write up an email being honest about your disappointment and how you’d like them to do better.
3. Post on Social Media
Time Required: 1 minute – 1 hour
Social media can be a powerful tool for change. Most fashion brands rely on social media to establish their branding and retain their “cool” factor.
So, calling brands in over on social media, will certainly get their attention. *Especially when it’s done as part of a bigger movement, which we’ll get to later.
You could create an Instagram post or an Instagram Story tagging the brand and sharing what practice you are not happy with and where you’d like them to improve.
You could also comment on a brand’s social media posts on Instagram or elsewhere. The additional benefit of this approach is that it has the potential to be seen by these brand’s customers. It might inspire some of them to start thinking about these sustainability and ethics questions as well.
Or, you could simply repost something that another account has created, advocating for change from a brand. Some accounts that post frequently about campaigns include @remakeourworld, @cleanclothescampaign, @fash_rev, and our account, @consciousstyle.
4. Talk to a friend or family member
Time Required: 30 minutes – 1 hour
We are all influencers in our own right! We can influence those closest to us potentially even more than influencers or thought-leaders can.
While it can be tempting sometimes to place blame or shame people when we are angry at the fashion system, a gentler and more open approach is likely to be more effective — and preserve your relationship with that person!
Figure out what that person cares about (feminism, animal rights…) and try to talk to them about the issues through that lens.
Or try to inspire them by telling them how you’re learning to love the clothes that you already have in your closet, or why you love thrifting now more than buying new, or how you find sustainable brands on the Good on You app or Remake’s Brand Directory.
If it feels intimidating to talk directly about these issues with your friends or family, you could always recommend an article, book, podcast, or other resource.
5. Host an event
Time Required: Several hours – several weeks
Are you in school or part of another community? See if there’s a way that you can reach people near you geographically by hosting an event.
Host a clothing swap event, screen a fashion documentary like the True Cost, invite local thought-leaders to a panel event, or host a mending & repair workshop. The options are really endless!
Explore the intersections of what you enjoy with what might make a difference and what your community might enjoy attending.
Join A Fashion Advocacy Group
Time Required: Varies
If you’re ready for a bigger commitment, consider joining a fashion activist group. These groups meet regularly and will require more time and energy than some of the one-off steps listed above.
But the benefits are huge! You’ll be part of a like-minded community that cares about the same issues as you do, you’ll be making a difference, and you’ll have people to support you when you need a bit of encouragement or you’re on the verge of activist burn-out.
The program I am personally a part of and that I recommend is Remake’s Ambassador Program.
Remake is an ethical fashion nonprofit on a mission to make fashion a force for good through education, advocacy, and transparency reports on fashion brands.
The Remake Ambassador program is a virtual group open to people all over the world.
When you become an ambassador, you can attend monthly meetings with advocacy updates and educational sessions. You’ll also receive resources for hosting events, get access to the Ambassador Slack channel to communicate with your fellow fashion activists, and get exclusive invites and discounts to special events.
It’s really an incredible group and I can’t recommend it enough to those who have a few hours each month to spare to advocate for a fairer fashion industry!
Support Advocacy Groups
If you don’t have the time to join an ambassador group, don’t sweat it! There are other ways you can amplify the work of advocacy groups.
1) Follow these groups on social media and take some of the simple actions they post about, such as petitions to sign.
2) Share, repost, or retweet their content to help it reach more people.
3) Tell your friends and family about these groups and maybe they’ll be interested in following them and learning more. Perhaps they will even consider a donation!
4) Donate if you have the means to do so.
Here are some groups worth checking out and supporting!
A Final Reminder
A fashion activist or consumer activist journey is a long-term commitment — it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
So find ways to integrate some simple steps into your life slowly, rather than trying to do it all at once and getting burned out!
And remember that you are not alone.
You are part of a growing group of changemakers that wants to see fashion be a driver for positive change, rather than a system of exploitation and extraction.
Every little thing that you do matters, because it’s part of a broader movement where each action can have a compounding effect!
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