It may not be immediately clear to the average shopper how the coronavirus pandemic affects garment workers, but the people who make your clothing are profoundly impacted by it. “With orders being cancelled amid the pandemic, garment workers are at risk of losing wages, stability, and access to vital resources and medical care,” stylist and sustainability activist Rachael Wang tells Bustle.
She is teaming up with Fair Trade USA for the We Wear Fair Trade campaign, a movement dedicated to bring awareness and help protect producers across industries, to support the vulnerable garment workers suffering from crisis like this. She says it’s critical to think about how to support them to ensure they’re still producing and providing for themselves, their families, and their communities.
“Fair Trade works to protect workers by urging brands to honor orders; compiling resources to share with factories about prevention, sanitary protocols, and social distancing best practices; and exploring ways to make Community Development Funds more flexible for use to address the crisis," Wang explains. "Now more than ever, it’s important to use our voices and dollars to support the people who make our clothing, and buying products with the Fair Trade seal is the easiest way to do that.”
Some products she gravitates toward with the Fair Trade seal? J.Crew jeans, Outerknown sweatshirts, Patagonia bras, and Mountain Khakis dresses — all featured in the We Wear Fair Trade lookbook. Now in its second year, the lookbook just dropped ahead of Earth Day 2020, taking place April 22. Rachael Wang creative directed, styled, and edited the lookbook, which spotlights clothing exclusively made in Fair Trade Certified™ Factories.
“Collaboration is at the heart of any movement toward change,” says Wang. “With this year’s We Wear Fair Trade campaign, I aspired to capture and honor the power that emerges from the gathering of a diversity of experiences, skills, and points of view. Individually, these women work to inspire, organize, and educate their communities.”
The theme for this year’s lookbook is “She Wears Fair Trade,” which features sustainability activists including Nasreen Sheikh, Cameron Russell, Alexandria Villaseñor, Whitney McGuire, Dominique Drakeford, Ayesha Barenblat, Nikki Sanchez, and Bustle Deputy Fashion Editor Jessica Andrews.
The entire campaign is a tribute to the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,134 people and injured 2,500 on April 24, 2013. Seven years later, change is happening, albeit slowly. Wang says she remains hopeful the fashion industry will learn to hit the brakes on endless mass production and consumption.
“My fantasy would be for the fashion industry to slow down, produce less, produce better, and pay garment workers more so they can earn a sustainable living,” she shares. “I would love for our clothes to last a long, long time and be made from fabrics that are renewable and biodegradable. I would love for society to be more equitable, so folks can feel confident in their inherent value, not needing to consume constantly — to improve constantly — to be able to survive in our society.”
In the meantime, what can the everyday shopper do to make a difference? “It’s important to take care of those most vulnerable,” Wang says. “We can do that by shopping in a thoughtful and responsible way. Get curious about [your] wardrobe by asking: Who made my clothes? Where were they made? What were they made from?”