5 Things We Learned From Fashion Revolution Week 2022
Founder Claire here.
Last week was Fashion Revolution Week, the seven days surrounding April 24, the anniversary of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. Fashion Revolution is a year-round, global movement of which we’ve been flag-waving, pin-wearing supporters since its inception in 2014, when I still lived in China.
This year, we opened our warehouse doors for our first Open Studio since "before times." It was a blast to plan, and even more fun to host - for four days straight. We held a free denim swap, set up a self-serve upcycling supplies bar, collected clothing and scraps for recycling, offered mini-tours of our sewing studio, and put preloved and sample Unbelts up for sale. It was a whirlwind, but with some clear themes that emerged:
1. We’re all feeling weird about our bodies.
“I don’t even know what size I am anymore.”
“Here’s seven pairs of jeans - definitely not getting back into THEM anytime soon."
“You probably don’t have my size.”
- Real quotes from guests at our denim swap
Almost every single person who walked through our doors expressed some tough feelings about their size or shape. Guess what? We are, too. I’ve gone up four pant sizes during COVID, and before that, I was in the prenatal and postpartum hell of finding clothes that fit. Our lifestyles have changed over the past two years. We’ve been super-stressed. And it’s changing the way we feel about our own clothes.
We'd pre-stocked our racks with jeans sizes up to 5X, and we were glad we had. Swap jeans are always smaller than their tags say - they've been washed, dried, and put aside because they don't fit the way they did. We suffixed every size section marker with "ish" so guests would know not every Size 36 was alike. But confronting size at *all* was hard for almost everyone, and it's pretty clear that body positivity - or, even more importantly, body neutrality - feels like a reach right now.
2. We’re starting to see past “donating” as a cure-all.
We collaborated with Sarah Janzen from Blenderz Garment Recyclers to collect used clothing and scraps for her buy-by-the-pound sales, delivery boxes, and textile shredding program. Guests loved knowing that 100% of the textiles Sarah processes stay in the community, and I was impressed by how many understood that “donating” unwearably damaged clothes to thrift shops that don’t have recycling capacity is often a path to a landfill - sometimes after being shipped across the globe.
Thank you to everyone who donated to Blenderz to help the business remain economically sustainable. What our guests brought in filled the back of Sarah’s pick-up truck, and processing that many textiles is no small job. I think everyone who saw our jam-packed Blenderz drop-off racks realized that better waste diversion is an important part of the sustainability equation… but that the best fix is limiting consumption in the first place.
3. We miss our community...
This was our first collaborative community event since 2019, and it lit. Us. Up. For a bunch of introverts, dang, we missed human connection - and our guests did, too. Spencer and London from Chubby Fem Thrift (@chubbyfemthrift on Insta) stopped by, as did Erin from My Green Closet (@verenaerin on Insta) and Jen from @lifepreloved. We had mom-and-daughter duos. Couples. Little kids, including a three year-old who was so dang proud to wear the same belt as his six year-old sibling.
The whole week felt like a celebration of togetherness… if masked and distanced. “I haven’t been ANYWHERE!” was something we heard all week long. If that was you - we’re honoured to have been the first stop on your journey out into the real world again.
4. ...but don't quite know how to "human" again.
Among our team’s social hiccups last week: I wished someone goodbye by shouting “Happy trails!” - something I’d never said before in my life and haven’t since - WAY too loudly. Bex, our operations assistant, was mid-sentence with a customer and completely lost her train of thought. Krista, our operations director, is pretty sure she accidentally pressured a guest into trying on a pair of kids’ jeans.
It’s been two years since we had this much in-person human interaction, and we’re, uh, rusty. But you met us halfway. Someone told us they weren’t sure if they were making enough eye contact. Krista’s customer laughed with her and ended up asking her opinion on the jeans she *did* take (not the ones designed for tweens). Thanks for getting in the awkward trenches with us, everyone.
5. The new Fashion Revolution Canada team is fiiii-yahhhhh.
One of the big changes we made in 2021 was passing our Country Coordinator role on to one of our long-standing volunteers, Elise Epp, who’s a Winnipeg-based graphic designer and who’s got the passion and the bandwidth to take Fashion Revolution Canada to new heights.
It was the best feeling *ever* to see Elise and her team (including Erin!) light up the country’s Insta feeds and Google calendars with stunning content and deep engagement. They deserve your support, and if you think there’s Fashion Revolution work that could be done in your community, reach out to offer your time. You’ll be part of a stellar group that’s making real change.
6. This is a weird, in-between time that's - we'll say it - unprecedented.
From being between jeans sizes to feeling social but not socialized… oof, we’re all walking a lot of lines right now. Friends… we’re in it with you.
If you know you want to reduce textile waste, but are still learning how to make do with less, and repair or restyle what you’ve got - we’ve got your back. We’ll be publishing more content about how to make #LovedClothesLast, especially your denim, which is one of the thirstiest textiles out there.
We’re all getting our baby giraffe legs under ourselves, social-skill wise. If you need a safe space to practice, come on down. It’ll be a great, low-pressure visit, and maybe I’ll yell a bizarre send-off when you leave - you know, before I shrink under my desk.
And, as per always - if you need an extra inch in your waistband but don’t want to size up your jeans - well, you know we’ve got you. (#stretchbeltlife.)
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