Airi Ferrer, Fashion Revolution Week: “Citizens also have the power to bring about change in the fashion industry”

BBK Kuna will host Fashion Revolution Week Euskadi from 25 to 27 April.

Fashion Revolution is a worldwide fashion activism movement, mobilising different sectors and areas in society.

It aims to make the global fashion industry conserve and restore the environment, and value people over growth and profit.

Euskadi is represented in this movement and will develop different actions between 25 and 27 April, within the framework of the Fashion Revolution Week Euskadi. To talk about all of this, we have interviewed Airi Ferrer, member of the team, who explains the bases of this movement and offers guidelines for citizens to apply in their day-to-day.

The Fashion Revolution movement

How and why does the Fashion Revolution emerge? Who promotes it?

Fashion Revolution emerges in April 2014 after the Rana Plaza accident. A 5-storey building in which fast fashion clothing was being made for about 20 international brands collapsed on 24 April 2013. 1,134 people died, nearly all women, and more than 2,000 were injured. That is when Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers, two UK designers decided to create Fashion Revolution. Today, the movement is present in more than 80 countries. Work is carried out from research, promotion and education for raising awareness of all the stakeholders involved in the industry to demand a more transparent, traceable and fair fashion.

What is Fashion Revolution’s specific mission and what type of actions and activities does it undertake?

We believe in a global fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people above growth and profit.

Our aims:

• An end to human and environmental exploitation in the global fashion industry.

• Safe, dignified working conditions and living wages for all people in the supply chain.

• Redistributed and more equal balance of power across the global fashion industry.

• A bigger and stronger labour movement in the global fashion industry.

• A global fashion industry that works to conserve precious resources and regenerate ecosystems.

• A culture of transparency and accountability across the value chain.

• An end to throwaway culture and shift to a system where materials are used for much longer and nothing goes to waste.

• Heritage, craftmanship and local wisdom are recognised and valued.

The Fashion Revolution movement is made up of citizens and professionals from all fields related to the fashion industry. What vision do each of them have from their perspective?

We are professionals associated with fashion, the environment or just citizens concerned about the current situation as regards fashion and the environment. Every person in Fashion Revolution adds a very important role because we need experts in many different subject areas, from scientists, communicators, designers, researchers, policymakers or journalists.

I think that a key to the success of Fashion Revolution has precisely been knowing how to work as a team with professionals who contribute their particular knowhow, and this has allowed us to reach the different subsectors in the industry.

In recent times, the fashion industry has been presented as one of the perpetrators to a large percentage of the environmental situation: the energy and resource consumption levels it requires in its manufacturing processes, water consumption, emissions, etc. What’s the situation at the moment?

The textile industry is one of the most polluting on the planet, responsible for 10% of CO2 emissions, 20% of water pollution or responsible for exploiting the planet’s limited resources. In addition, there is a serious problem in managing textile waste that is being piled up in landfills. Today, more than 60% of the fabrics in our garments are made from synthetic fibres, and these can take more than 200 years to biodegrade.

However, despite the situation being critical and that solutions have to be found urgently, many companies in the sector are starting to take measures on production, governments are starting to regulate certain aspects and citizens are becoming more aware.

In parallel, the sustainable, ecological and ethical fashion movement has emerged. Is it possible to redirect the fashion industry towards a swift production and that is not based on lower cost? Or should both currents coexist? 

It is possible because for a very long time such was the case. Many years ago, clothing had an enormous value, after housing and food it was the most valuable asset. However, today clothing has lost all its value. I think, that it is not only a pollution problem, of managing waste, of exploiting limited resources or the lack of labour rights, but there is another problem that is rarely mentioned, that of mental health and the damage fast fashion and ultra-fast fashion is causing consumers, particularly to the younger ones, who feel the emotional stress and anxiety if they do not buy new garments every week.

How does the Fashion Revolution movement promote a fashion that is environmentally friendly again but continues being an industry?

We work from education, promotion and research, in order to bring the knowledge about the environmental and social impact of the industry closer to citizens and consumers, but also to make the necessary information available so that consumers can know where and how to find the brands that work taking into account not only the economic, but also the environmental and social benefit, while at the same time bringing ideas and tips to consumers to reduce the impact in the user stage or the end stage of the product.

How can society’s awareness be raised as regards the situation and introduce old values as regards fashion and clothing?

Fashion Revolution has built a diverse movement, mobilising communities and bringing people together around the world to take collective action. We help people to understand the impact of their clothing and how to influence the fashion industry. In addition, we collaborate with artists and activists to reformulate the powerful narratives embedded in the fashion culture, and we create tools so that people can use their voice and make changes in their personal and working life.

All this work is done from the UK where the movement’s head office is located and we export it from each of our coordinators to the communities that surround us.

This movement works globally and there are countries who are even taking measures at an institutional level. In France, for example, drastic measures have just been announced in order to curb ultra-fast fashion, such as applying taxes and putting a ban on advertising. Is it possible to bring about a change in policies and influence governments in order to take measures from the highest levels?

Of course! These measures that are being taken from Europe, are precisely being taken because many organisations such as ours or scientists are warning about the problem this industry generates. Much campaigning is being done throughout the whole year to raise awareness in all sections of society including the policymakers.

Fashion Revolution Euskadi

How does the Fashion Revolution movement work in Euskadi? What people does it comprise of? Is it a group open to all citizens? Can anyone join?

In Euskadi, we are a group of people associated to fashion, communication students, designers, etc… Any citizen is invited to take actions for the fashion revolution week that we value from the organisation and schedule into the official programme.

The fashion industry in Euskadi

The fashion industry in Euskadi in the last few years has undergone an emergence of projects that seek to find a balance between trends, the cultural and heritage roots, innovation in materials and processes… And all from a perspective of respecting the environment and sustainability in all aspects. What’s the situation in this respect?

Euskadi has not been a traditionally textile territory such as Catalonia or Galicia. However, it is true that this community of businesses, entrepreneurs or craftsmen has grown in recent years, as well as the educational offer. I think it is a community, which due to its territory and connection with nature and the sea, that has a particular sensitivity. In addition, it is a territory in which the social aspect is very important and this makes the relationships we are creating in this community very collaborative. There are brands that have been working with sustainability as their primary focus of their collections for many years, such as SKFK, that works with sustainable materials, and are FairTrade or GOTS certified or offer new consumption alternatives such as clothing rental. And others that are newer such as BasqCompany, which offers recycled and vegan footwear with a production process close to its points of sale in order to decrease the carbon footprint in the transportation stage. In Fashion Revolution Euskadi, what we do is join this community together with education centres such as IED-Kunsthal, Inedi or Javier Barroeta Escuela, in order to create a collective awareness in all the stakeholders.

How advanced is the fashion industry in Euskadi in these terms? Is enough being invested in research, awareness, etc.?

As we said before, Euskadi has little textile tradition. Therefore, it has always been a community that has needed to search for partners outside its territory for its productions, be it in other communities in Spain or in other countries. In this respect, there continue to be few KM0 garment making workshops and those that there are have little capacity to absorb more productions.

At a research and awareness level, there are interesting projects that have been invested in to advance. An example is the new Koopera textile recycling plant inaugurated las December in Mungia, which has cutting-edge technology to identify the fabric the garment is made of in record time and thus facilitate the destination of the disused garment.

How can we turn the new generations of young people into participants and activists, those who have grown up in a reality based on the fast consumption of fashion?

Education at school is key, because we give talks and courses in our organisation, and we realise they have very little or no information about the environmental and social impact. Not only for them to learn about the data, but because these new generations will have to face a series of jobs connected with climate change, that are still unknown, and the more information they have on issues of pollution or waste management, the better we will be able to resolve the problems we are going to encounter.

In addition, we must encourage the new generations towards logical consumption from, for example, the creative perspective. Fashion has always been a second skin for human beings. Through it we express our way of thinking or being and it is a part of our personality. Encourage them to have this personality through creativity whether through fun repairs, garment exchanging or manufacturing new garments from other used ones.

What do we need in Euskadi in order to lead a more ethical, sustainable industry as a country and cause a transformation in consumption?

We need the same thing the whole world needs, a systemic change based on the collaboration of the stakeholders involved:

  • Regularising the industry, with proposals that penalise bad practices and reward those brands or businesses that work and take positive impact into mind.
  • Compulsory environmental education at public schools.
  • Moderate and logical consumption by consumers.
  • On-demand productions with sustainable materials, pre- and post- waste control, extended product responsibility, compulsory repair service etc… by the businesses.
  • Investment by public institutions.


Day-to-day tips for citizens

The use phase of the life of a garment, is which has the most impact, therefore it is very important for consumers to be very clear that each one of these small actions, thar are very simple and do not alter the course of everyday life, are extremely important, because when multiplied by the number of citizens in the world, the impact may decrease quite considerably:

  • Buy less and better.
  • Ask the person in charge of the store if information is unclear, and ask for information about what garments have less environmental impact. 
  • Always consider the composition of the fabric (organic, recycled…) and try to buy fabrics made 100% of the same material.
  • Consider buying KM0 or manufactured under fair labour conditions (FAIR TRADE).
  • Consider consumption alternatives such as rental or buying second-hand clothing.
  • Get used to exchanging garments and ask for a garment you need from a family member or a friend.
  • Recycle garments you do not use to make other garments with the same value or a lower value (rags).
  • Wash clothes only when necessary (remember that 700,000 microfibres are released) in every washing machine.
  • Use low temperatures and avoid using the dryer.
  • Place garments we find no use for into a textile recycling container.