Fashion / Labour Behind the Label

A fashion fast against fast fashion

By emma gorton ellicott, Tuesday Feb 4, 2020

Labour Behind the Label is a campaign organisation working to improve working conditions for garment workers around the globe from its little office in Easton.

The team is encouraging people to sign up to take part in the Six Items Challenge, an annual ‘fashion fast’ that challenges participants to select and wear just six items of clothing from their wardrobe for six weeks.

If you are a fashion lover, this may sound like your idea of hell but don’t be too put off; essential items like underwear, coats, footwear, gym clothes and uniforms are not included and accessories are positively encouraged.

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Whether you are already a sustainable and slow fashion supporter, a high street lover or just like a challenge, you can get involved and raise money for garment workers around the world.


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“The thing that participants find most challenging is boredom,” says Caroline Lewis, director of fundraising at Labour Behind the Label.

“For lots of people, clothes are a way to express themselves and their identity. Limiting your wardrobe to just six items can feel quite restrictive but once the six weeks is up and you have access to your entire wardrobe again!”

Labour Behind the Label is encouraging people to join the Six Items Challenge. Photos from Beyond Retro (left and centre) and Parlez (right).

Caroline recommends choosing the six items wisely, although those who have a special event such as a wedding are advised to add any relapse onto the end of the challenge if they can’t incorporate one outfit as part of the six.

“Choosing is probably the most important part,” continues Caroline. “A pinafore dress, for example, could be a dress or a skirt and you could wear a top underneath or over it to create multiple looks. Jeans, don’t need to be washed as frequently as other items, making washing easier.”

National Garment Workers Federation demonstration in Dhaka. Photo by Gordon Welters Photography

Originally founded in Norwich in the nineties, Labour Behind the Label is now Bristol-based and the team plans to develop an activist network here in the city.

Caroline adds: “We are a small non-governmental organisation with a huge workload and mission. Money raised from this campaign will help ensure we can continue to support garment workers and their struggle for decent pay, better working and living conditions.

“I love that as a small campaign Labour Behind the Label has a big voice. I think this comes from not being afraid to call out brands when they need to be held accountable.

“Some brands are responsive, some of them less. Sometimes when they are not listening, or taking responsibility, we will take public action to raise awareness and put pressure on them.”

Garment workers demo. Photo by Heather Stilwell Photography

They stress they are not trying to boycott fashion brands as this, in turn, could also have a negative impact on the workers but, by working alongside these brands, they can help make a difference, encourage us all to slow down on our fashion consumption and reduce the current pressures on the workers involved in the chain.

Despite fast fashion becoming a buzzword in the industry, many high street chains are still churning out millions of fashion items a week to keep up with the demand of consumers.

These garments are mass-produced at a rate of knots and the obsession for keeping up with the latest trends has created a ticking fashion time bomb that, in turn for our love of disposable fashion, is creating fashion waste and has a disastrous effect on the people that make our clothes and the planet.

The more people consume, the more they make and the more factory workers are required to do the job fast, it’s a vicious circle.

Shockingly, a £3 bargain t-shirt bagged from the high street could actually cost double the amount of what factory workers can make in a day. Labour Behind the Label is doing its best to stop this.

So, you think you are up for the challenge?

The main items of clothing to include in the six items challenge are dresses, trousers, tops, skirts, jumpers, shirts or cardigans, these must remain constant throughout the six weeks but you can have a lot of fun getting creative and accessorising. Choosing wisely is the key.

“Fast fashion fuels the throwaway culture, however, this challenge makes you really think twice about your clothes. Does it really matter if you wear the same thing the next day? This challenge will make you learn to really love your clothes,” says Caroline.

Sign up to the Six Items Challenge or join the Labour Behind the Label activist network in Bristol

Read our fashion editor Emma’s blog No Debutante

Main photo by Kristof Vadino Photography

Read more: Sustainable clothes swap event raises money for Labour Behind the Label

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