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Portrait of Fashion Revolution's Liv Simpliciano wearing fluffy hat
11 Apr
Portrait of Fashion Revolution's Liv Simpliciano wearing fluffy hat

Liv Simpliciano on What a Decade of Fashion Revolution Can Teach Us

Has fashion changed for the better since Fashion Revolution’s founding in 2014? What impact do activists and policy play in all this? And what should we be carrying into the next decade of sustainable fashion? 

We spoke to Liv Simpliciano, policy and research manager at Fashion Revolution to find out all this on the eve of the organisation’s 10th anniversary. 

Meet Fashion Revolution’s Liv Simpliciano

Since 2014, Fashion Revolution has been campaigning for better transparency and accountability in the fashion industry to ensure the safety of the people involved in garment production, and the longevity of our environment. Founded in response to the Rana Plaza disaster, the organisation has since launched campaigns like #WhoMadeMyClothes? and annual research called the Fashion Transparency Index, which now charts the transparency of 250 of the world’s largest and most powerful brands to leverage citizens’ activism and call for regulation in the industry.

As policy and research manager at Fashion Revolution, Liv Simpliciano draws on her passion for protecting and advocating for the people who make our clothes, and the environment, to weigh in on how governments and those in positions of power can change the industry for the better. She is particularly interested in the just, clean energy transition in fashion and stopping waste colonialism.

Simpliciano leads the organisation’s annual Fashion Transparency Index—a key driver of improved transparency in the industry since 2017. And if you’ve ever been to one of Fashion Revolution’s events and seen Simpliciano speak then you’ll be familiar with her compelling presence—something that is not only tangible in person but in the interview that follows, too.

Read on to find out the issues she believes are most pressing to address, and the role that community has played in improving things so far.


8 Q&As on activism, policymaking, and more

1. Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in sustainable fashion in the decade since Fashion Revolution Week started?

A: We know that whilst transparency alone cannot prevent tragedy, it certainly is an enabling force for change and remediation. When the movement for transparency began, transparency was a radical notion. Activists had to physically dig through the rubble at the site of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, then a few years later in 2017, 32 out of 100 brands disclosed their first-tier supplier lists in the first edition of the Global Fashion Transparency Index. Today, a little more than half (52%) of 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers are disclosing their first-tier supplier lists (among them luxury brands).

Transparency has evolved to the point that it has become part of the identity of what it means to be luxury. When we started our work, we were told that luxury brands publishing their supplier lists was a distant dream but now, many do. Increased transparency on its own does not translate to increased sustainability, but it is a key first step.

The big fashion industry has been unregulated and for the most part, untouchable for many decades so the growth of regulation over the last 10 years has been positive.

Increased transparency on its own does not translate to increased sustainability, but it is a key first step.

As an activist and transparency campaigner, I commend the progress but remain sceptical and unsatisfied with the pace of progress. For all the good, the last decade has also given rise to even faster fashion, on-demand models, more waste and in-work poverty deepening for garment workers. Issues are still not being addressed at the root—which gives all the more reason for our movement to continue demanding justice.


2. Q: What role has policy played so far? 

A: The system we have today was designed to be elitist, destructive, and exploitative. It’s working entirely as it was envisioned. Therefore, voluntary schemes are ineffective at protecting the environment and the people who make our clothes. The growth of greenwashing—deliberately misleading claims to instil confidence in consumers—is an example of how the industry cannot be trusted to fix itself. A foundational step toward driving change forward is binding legislation—it is essential for accountability.

It is encouraging to see policy developments emerging globally, but in particular within the EU, which is the largest importer of textiles and has a responsibility to regulate the industry.  Some encouraging examples include the CSDDD, CSRD, EU Textile Labelling Regulation, Waste Framework Directive and Forced Labour Regulation, to name a few. Similarly, the New York Fashion Act—with New York another epicentre of global fashion—is a bold and necessary legislation to regulate the industry through due diligence requirements, climate obligations, and fines for non-compliance.

This all signals positive steps toward addressing human rights and environmental abuses. However, we hope that the EU will focus on making these legislations impactful, resulting in positive gains for the people who make our clothes, impacted communities and the planet beyond just increased disclosure and transparency for transparency’s sake.


3. Q: How important is the role of activists in driving change—in particular, your global network of activists?

A: Community is essential for solidarity, belonging, and recharging energy levels. Tackling the global fashion industry on your own simply isn’t possible, which makes the role of individuals—united at scale and galvanised by hope—so powerful for driving change.

Our community holds globally diverse knowledge and experience which helps sow the seeds of change and transfer ideas. It includes activists, designers, academics, makers, researchers, menders, slow fashion advocates, policy experts, and leaders of all kinds, and we have had many incredible successes over the last decade. For example, our community has campaigned for national-level fashion policies in various regions; mobilised nearly a quarter of a million signatures across the EU for our Good Clothes, Fair Pay petition; and organised hundreds (if not thousands) of events throughout the years. Whenever the global network has an opportunity to meet in person, it is an immense privilege. It is energising and affirming to share what actions we are organising and how to progress our shared goals.


4. Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry in the coming years?

A: The industry’s biggest challenge is holding a mirror up to itself. Big fashion as we know it today has been forcefully enabled through environmental destruction and keeping wages artificially low for the people who make our clothes. The fashion industry is extremely indebted to all the resources and livelihoods it sacrifices in the name of massive profits.

The climate crisis is driven by overproduction and overconsumption. We are concerned that very few brands are disclosing a commitment to producing less, and many are indicating that they are, in fact, producing more products. In some cases, brands’ scope 3 emissions have increased since their science-based targets (SBTi) were set, and some brands’ net-zero targets have been removed altogether because their progress to date shows they won’t achieve them.

The biggest challenge facing the industry in the coming years is holding a mirror up to itself.

The coming years are an opportunity for course correction. As a key driver of the climate crisis, big fashion must enable a just transition led by the needs of suppliers and workers whose voices are critical in co-creating local solutions and mitigations to climate adaptation. Just transition is more than upskilling for a green economy—it is an opportunity to redress the extreme power imbalance that led us into the intersecting climate and inequality crises in the first place.

We know that when it comes to decarbonising the fashion industry, $1 trillion is needed over the next 30 years. With rising temperatures and the accelerating occurrence of disasters, the stakes are incredibly high. Our shared future is on the line—how do you put a price tag on that?

And that’s all before we’ve even covered the issue of living wages.


5. Q: Absolutely. And the latest Fashion Transparency Index revealed that most brands included still aren’t doing enough to ensure living wages are paid in the supply chain. Tell us more about that.

A: Living wages are not a luxury, they are a fundamental human right. Living wages—bar nothing—is the most pressing demand for the people who make our clothes. As an example, 99% of brands we review—which represents a sizable representation of the world’s biggest and most influential brands—still do not disclose the percentage of workers in their supply chain earning a living wage. And just 2% disclose a time-bound and measurable target to achieve living wages, which signals it is not a priority.

In theory, even if a fabric is dyed without using any water, is 100% natural, made without combusting any fossil fuels, and degrades at the end of its life with no negative impact on the environment, if the person who made it is earning poverty wages, then it still isn’t sustainable.

It takes just 4 days for a fashion CEO to earn what a garment worker would earn in their entire lifetime—some of the wealthiest people on this planet are fashion CEOs. The people who make their clothes are sacrificing their precious time to subsidise billionaires’ profits.  The fight for living wages will continue.

Liv Simpliciano at the Overheated climate event.


6. Q: We touched on climate change, but I don’t think many people really understand how that also ties in with justice for garment workers. Can you speak to that?

A: Garment production countries are some of those most vulnerable to the climate crisis, and we have already seen increasing examples of devastating floods, fires, droughts, earthquakes and other natural disasters caused by climate change affecting the fashion supply chain. We are concerned that for many brands, the strategy appears to be to relocate and source new suppliers and nearshore production when the supply chain is disrupted by disaster—rather than supporting existing suppliers and workers and helping to mitigate and prepare for the impacts of climate change.


7. Q: What policy changes do you want to see in the future?

A: I want to see the implementation of binding regulations, laws and government policies that require transparency and corporate accountability on environmental and human rights issues in the global fashion industry. This should include responsible purchasing practices so that the price paid by brands to suppliers reflects the cost of sustainable production. Progress made to date is welcome, but in its current forms it fails to deliver worker justice.

I also want to see the implementation of policy that finances the green transition in garment producing countries. For too long, big fashion has dismissed production countries as sacrifice zones, which have been historically saddled with crippling debt and are now facing debt crises in addition to being more vulnerable to the climate crisis. Financial support must be prioritised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across global supply chains, while helping garment producing countries to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis. Most of all, suppliers must be able directly access the financial resources they need to help them become more resilient to climate change.


8. Q: How do you see Fashion Revolution’s work evolving over the next decade?

A: I would like to see more alignment and integration with other movements within civil society. I think fashion (outside of my echo chamber) is still seen as frivolous and not as important of a policy issue—which, of course, works in the favour of corporate companies that do not wish to change.

However, big fashion as we know it today is made up of intersecting crises of human rights, environmental destruction, climate crisis, institutional inequality and poverty, elitism, extractivism, disenfranchisement, and racism. There is so much power and opportunity in the intersectionality of our fight and we are stronger together. I hope we can continue to work alongside policymakers and help deliver accountability and change.

Ultimately, I wish our cause didn’t have to exist, but unfortunately, the overall glacial progress we have seen on critical human rights and environmental issues in the last decade means that for the next decade, we must continue.


Feeling inspired to get involved?

Fashion Revolution Week 2024 runs from April 15th to April 24th, and there are lots of ways to join in the movement, including plenty of online activities for those who don’t live near planned in-person events. Find the full list here, and then get even more energised to take action by reading eight questions with Fashion Revolution’s co-founder, Orsola de Castro.

Editor's note

Images courtesy of Liv Simpliciano. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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