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Fashion Revolution's Melinda Tually On The Change We Need To See

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

Image: Melinda Tually of Fashion Revolution. Image source

Melinda Tually is the inspiring coordinator for Fashion Revolution Australia/New Zealand. Founded as a result of the tragic Rana Plaza collapse of 2013 – which claimed the lives of more than 1000 garment workers in 2013 – Fashion Revolution works tirelessly to raise awareness about fashion industry problems concerning people and the planet. Through their work, things have fortunately improved a great deal over the past five years. But we are still in need of drastic change, so to celebrate Fashion Revolution Week, Mel tells us why.

Rosie Dalton: For those that don’t know, can you tell us a bit about Fashion Revolution and what you guys do?
Melinda Tually
: Fashion Revolution is the global movement advocating for a more responsible and transparent fashion industry. It is run by people power and we now have multiple volunteer teams in over 100 countries, as well as citizen consumers, who are passionate about seeing a more just fashion industry. We advocate on everything from worker rights, living wages and factory safety, to textile and fashion waste, microplastics and resource scarcity. So basically right across the gamut of people and planet. Where there is an issue, we try to raise awareness and encourage action to be taken.

Image: Melinda Tually marching for International Women's Day. Image source.

Rosie: Amazing. And do you feel like things have improved over the last five years or so, in terms of consumer awareness?
 Oh definitely. Not a day goes by now that there isn’t an article in the media about an industry issue, announcement or commitment. This is in mainstream media as well. In years gone by alt media and fringe media have pioneered this sort of reporting – and now you’re seeing it become mainstream industry news as well. I think it is much more in the everyday vernacular now and we have definitely seen a lot more brand engagement as a result.  

Rosie: That’s what I was going to ask next actually. Beyond the dissemination of knowledge, what changes have we seen in terms of action?
: We’re seeing brands consolidating supply chains so they have a lot more leverage and visibility, as well as initiatives engaging workers on their rights and empowerment. A lot of effort is being made towards sourcing fibres and packaging that’s circular and low impact so it’s an exciting time.

I think the industry is becoming much more introspective. The brands that are most sophisticated in this space are increasingly approaching their supplier relationships as a partnership. The power dynamic is still there, of course, but the exchange is becoming healthier. Brands recognise that you can’t change things overnight – and consumers need to recognise this as well. Systemic change needs a whole of industry response. Of course we want businesses to be better, supply chains to be cleaner and fairer. But we can’t rewrite an opaque industry overnight, so you have to give space to achieve those goals. Fortunately, brands are being a lot more honest with their storytelling now. If they do come up against issues like child labour, it’s no longer a hidden secret. We know these things can be the product of a globalised supply chain and if we don’t talk about it, we’re not going to be able to fix it fast enough.

Image: from Fashion Revolution's panel with Levi's and Patagonia. Image source

Rosie: We have come a long way, but do you believe that we are still in need of a revolution?
: Absolutely. Revolution carries with it that sense of drastic change and we are in need of drastic change. We’ve not yet turned the tide as fast as we need to and often we’re seeing the same big brands and smaller independents doing all the hard work. I want to see the next tier of the industry take this on. Middle-tier brands need to realise their responsibility but also their opportunity. It’s huge.

Rosie: What are some steps that individual consumers can do to make a difference?
: Remain conscious and resist the impulse buy. 

Take part in Fashion Revolution Week 22 – 28 April 2019.

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