Exeter Joins Movement for Fair Trade Fashion in a Major Clothes Swap Event
Campaigners in Exeter organised a week of events to raise awareness of the need for a more sustainable and ethical clothes manufacturing industry, as part of a global movement to wipe out human exploitation, waste, and environmental damage.
Fashion Revolution Week took place from Monday April 23rd until Saturday 28th with activities in Exeter being organised by the independent local company Sancho’s, which has two shops in Fore Street selling certified FairTrade fashion clothing and accessories.
The campaign week came almost exactly five years after the shocking events of April 2013 when the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,138 people and injuring a further 2,500. The factory had been producing clothes for major retail companies in Europe and North America, and the causes of the collapse included shoddy construction, a building with too many floors, and too much heavy equipment for the structure to withstand.
It was the fourth largest industrial disaster in history, and highlighted the failure of many top Western fashion brands to protect workers in the poor developing countries where their goods are manufactured, and where business success depends on low manufacturing costs achieved through the exploitation of powerless, low-wage, long-hours workers.
The tragedy was a chilling illustration of the damage caused by Western ‘throwaway’ attitudes to cheap clothing and frivolous fashion. Fashion Revolution Week aims to shift the way consumers think about choosing, buying and disposing of clothes. At the moment items are being produced too cheaply, at a great human cost, and often thrown away a few months later, despite their potential value as recycled or re-used material. And consumers are doing all this without any thought about how the original textiles were produced, how the garments were manufactured, or what environmental impact this process is having.
The events in Exeter for Fashion Revolution Week raised awareness of these issues, equipping people with more informed choices about buying clothes, and providing enjoyable opportunities to swap unwanted clothing and learn how to create a stylish ‘capsule’ wardrobe.
Sancho’s Second Fashion Revolution Event was a ‘Clothes Swap and Second Chance Sale’, in aid of Surfers Against Sewage. The event raised an amazing £300 for solely for the charity, to help continue their efforts to battle plastic pollution in our ocean and the destruction this causes on our local beaches.
On average we wear about 30% of our clothes. The rest inevitably ends up as waste. Fast fashion marketing encourages excessive consumption of clothing. Rather than throwing unwanted clothes in landfill, clothes swaps, such as the one held by Sancho’s in Exeter, are a way for people to get new items and help save the planet. The event was a huge success with 150 swappers turning resulting in long queues down exeter’s independent high street.
People brought clothing items that no longer served them purpose and swapped them for some new styles. The ‘Second Chance Sale’ offered customers some of Sancho’s branded items from People Tree and Thought at a discounted price, with all the profits going to Surfers Against Sewage.
An introductory talk before the swap started was given by Adam Lusby, a Senior Circular Economy Research Fellow. Adam said:
“At the heart of the technical cycle of the circular economy is repair and re-use. And this is vial if we are going to reduce the amount of waste we produce in industries as such as clothing.”
The founder and owner of Sancho’s, Kalkidan Legesse, advocated more clothes swap opportunities:
“So whether it is in your home, community or shop, hold a clothes swap and embrace your inner change maker!”
The whole atmosphere was bustling and friendly, everyone gaining something positive from the experience:
“It’s really amazing to find some things that someone else isn’t going to use and that I can make use of.” (Rosie)
“It was a fantastic event this evening. It was great to see people take some of my stuff home but also get some new finds myself.”
Sancho’s continued to hold events for the rest of the week in aid of Fashion Revolution Week. On the third day they held their own Capsule Collection Launch, offering an exclusive, intimate shopping evening with loyal customers who were the first to purchase the collection.
On Thursday Sancho’s held a free Introduction to Ethical Fashion Talk where they covered a brief history of modern fashion, the emergence of fast fashion and why ethical fashion is the future! After that, a ‘Meet the Makers Panel Discussion’ was organised, with the store joined by Professor Ian Cook, a member of the global coordination team for Fashion Revolution, Ed from Bird Sunglasses, Howard from Submariner and Anna from Lush Exeter.