‘Working towards a more ethical and transparent fashion industry and fighting to improve women’s working conditions. Our work focuses on wage equality, gender justice, and women’s empowerment and training’, says fashion designer Eloisa Artuso, educational director of Fashion Revolution Brazil, teacher at Instituto Europeo di Design (IED) and co-founder of UN Moda Sustentável [UN Sustainable Fashion]
For fashion that is more transparent
For twelve years, I worked as a fashion designer for all types of brands; large, small, concept and luxury. I’ve had a variety of experiences. As soon as one collection was released, I was already designing the next. Eventually I realised the frantic speed at which fashion was moving, and that my work was automatically part of that process. Without thinking, I could identify the colours, prints and models that sold better and selected them.
I began to question myself, and realised I’d become disconnected from what I really enjoyed. What I wanted was to use a collection to tell a story; to create a product with meaning that honours both the quality of the raw materials and the final product and that respects the people involved in the process.
I decided to quit, and moved to London in 2012, where I did a master’s degree in Design Futures. I spent two years studying and salvaging the values I believed fashion had lost. I began to introduce ethical issues into my work. I was researching and writing about sustainable fashion, and realised it was possible to work in a totally different way, and I became interested in education.
The disaster that gave rise to Fashion Revolution
In 2014, while travelling through Brazil, but with the intention of returning to London, I saw that Fashion Revolution was taking its first steps in Brazil. The opportunity to work with them led me to stay in Brazil. Fashion Revolution began after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, on 24 April 2013, which killed more than a thousand people and injured a further 2,500. It was well known to suppliers and workers that the building was unsafe, but still garment workers continued to work there in slave like conditions. It was the worst accident in the history of the fashion industry. This disaster is now a milestone, and 24 April is known internationally as Fashion Revolution Day; a day to say enough is enough, a wake-up call to the world that people shouldn’t pay the price for the frantic pace of fashion. The #whomademyclothes campaign puts a spotlight on brands, the market and consumers and shows the people behind the clothing that we wear.
Fashion Revolution addressed everything that made sense to me. The movement fights for a more ethical and transparent fashion supply chain, for more sustainable practices. It promotes changes in mindset and behaviour in all involved. After learning more, I tracked down Fernanda Simon, who was bringing the movement to Brazil, and that is how I became the educational director of Fashion Revolution.
Improved transparency linked to better working conditions for women
Promoting transparency in the fashion industry is directly linked to improving women’s working conditions, as 75% of garment workers in Brazil are women. Whether in garment-making or in management roles, the work we do to achieve a fairer supply chain also contributes to the fight for equal pay, combats gender-based prejudices and violence, as well as mental and sexual harassment.
The first regional Fashion Transparency Index arrives in Brazil
Last year, supported by C&A Foundation Brazil, we launched the first regional edition of the Fashion Transparency Index in Brazil. The index assesses brands across 5 key areas, social and environmental practices, traceability, working conditions, women, waste, and ranks them according to the amount of information publicly disclosed by brands. We assessed 20 brands operating in the country. Taking part in the index, has already led brands to make small changes and examine their practices to be more aligned with the index.
For four years, I have been speaking at lectures in universities, campaigns, workshops and debates, with the aim of educating and inspiring new designers to learn more about these issues, which still do not receive enough media attention. In 2018, we went to 47 cities, and 73 universities and technical colleges. The movement has gained incredible momentum all over the world and has become Fashion Revolution Week.
Promoting transparency in the fashion industry is directly linked to improving women’s working conditions, as women represent 75% of workforce in the sector.
Due to my own personal journey, I have changed my work and other parts of my life to reflect my values and I have completely changed how I consume fashion. Now I only buy clothes from local brands where I know the clothes’ origin and where I know work practices are fair, or I buy from second-hand stores.
I became a vegetarian and began consuming organic products. Everything is interlinked; you can’t talk about sustainability in fashion without changing the environment. And the best thing is that these values consistency rings true in the people closest to me.’
This story was orginally published as part of a profile series in Marie Claire Brazil , in partnership with C&A Foundation. To see the original version click here.