Fashion Revolution Week urges you to ask 'Who made my clothes?'

Claire Theaker-Brown wants you to ask yourself one question this week: "Who made my clothes?"

'We want people to recognize the ecological and the social impact that their clothes have'

Claire Theaker-Brown says companies should be more transparent about how their products are produced, so consumers can make informed choices. (Getty Images )

Claire Theaker-Brown wants you to ask yourself one question this week: "Who made my clothes?"

The Edmonton-based businesswoman is passionate about clothing production, both from the perspective of a clothing company owner and as the Alberta ambassador for Fashion Revolution Week.

"I want to get people talking and thinking about the origin of their clothes, the lifecycle of their clothes, not only where they came from geographically, but the people behind them, under what sort of conditions their clothes are made," Theaker-Brow said in an interview Monday on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"We want people to recognize the ecological and the social impact that their clothes have and thinking about different ways to reduce that impact, or make it a positive one, instead of negative one."

The worldwide social-media campaign was inspired by a tragedy on April 24, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when a building complex housing several garment factories collapsed. The building owners had ignored warnings of imminent structural problems and urged employees to go to work.

More than 1,000 people died when the building collapsed and more than 2,000 people were injured.

"I think after that collapse there was true shock and a worldwide recognition that there is a true cost for a $5 T-shirt." 

A British-based campaign called Fashion Revolution was one response to the deaths.

The campaign wants people around the world to look at their jackets, pants, and shirts and ask how the clothing was produced. People are then asked to post their questions on social media.

Theaker-Brown says that if enough consumers show interest in the production of their clothes, companies may feel compelled to be more transparent in their practices.

"This is not a campaign to cast 'good guys' against 'bad guys',or to break brands into black and white, good or bad," she said.

"It's really about demonstrating that we care about the people behind our clothes and want to know more about them."

Theaker-Brown was living in Shanghai when she formed her company, Flatter Me Belts, five years ago. At the time, she was able to get on trains to visit factories that produce her belts.

But even for the most conscientious producer, it's hard to know the conditions in which the items that arrive in those factories were produced.

"Do I know every single woman who is sewing a belt? Yes, absolutely I do. But I do not know every single person who is making our components.

"I think that's an experience shared by a lot of brands that are trying to make a difference, and be more transparent about our supply chains," Theaker-Brown said.

"I think a lot of brands are really afraid to disclose what they are doing, because it can be really easy for consumers to point out what we're not doing."

While Edmonton isn't exactly known as the centre of Canada's garment industry, Theaker-Brown says that Alberta companies such as Poppy Barley, Workhall, and House of Sew are leaders in working transparency into their business ethos, one stitch, one garment at a time.

"Edmonton has a surprising number of businesses that are all part of the same cause," she said.

"There are a lot of us that are really trying to work transparency into our business, not for marketing but for our souls."