On the close of “Fashion Revolution Week”, Bright heard of a truly unique story from a German fashion brand called DAWN Denim. This brand is not only trying to challenge the status quo when it comes to apparel manufacturing, it’s going a full step further, by actively seeking out happiness for their production team: what is it to them? How can they create more of it?
So naturally, Bright was all ears. Grab a cup of tea, settle in, and follow along as we explore Fashion Revolution Week, Dawn, and their happiness initiative. Maybe you want to have a pencil and notebook ready, because be warned, this article may contribute to sudden rushes of inspiration.
What is Fashion Revolution Week?
Fashion Revolution Week started as a reaction to the disaster at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh where 1,138 people lost their lives when a five-storey building collapsed due to structural failure. It is considered the biggest garment factory disaster to date.
Did you know that approximately 75 million people work to create 150 billion items of clothing every year? In the last few decades, the fashion industry has become remarkably faster and larger, increasingly driven by trends and fed by consumers’ insatiable appetite for the “latest”; but, as we explored before in our introduction to sustainable fashion, at what cost?
“Have you ever wondered who made your clothes? How much they’re paid, and what their lives are like?”, that’s what the Fashion Revolution movement asks. Because it’s us as the consumers that have the power to change things by questioning our needs and our purchases. As with many things in life, it starts with becoming more conscious of the effect our actions have, and that is exactly what the Fashion Revolution movement inspires us to do.
What is DAWN Denim?
DAWN Denim is a young, independent fashion brand founded in Cologne, Germany. Marian von Rappard, Dawn’s co-founder, shared: “from the beginning, it was our aim to produce in a fair and transparent way. That’s why every pair of DAWN jeans is produced in our own factory in Saigon, called Evolution3. This allows us to fully control the manufacturing experience of everything they create.”
Beyond that, DAWN Denim is a member of the organization Fairwear, which works with brands and industry influencers to improve working conditions where your clothing is made. This is why the brand also stands for paying living wages and ensuring a safe working environment, as it believes that they can be a true role model for the industry.
DAWN Denim:Measuring happiness
Of course, it is already incredible that a brand would go through such great lengths to ensure those that make our clothing are fairly rewarded and work under good conditions. But, as Dawn’s Rachel Chuang explains: “this idea of being fair and transparent, although a good starting point, has evolved into something far bigger and more unique. We got to thinking, what if we go beyond production circumstances and income level, and look into what really contributes the most to people’s lives – their levels of happiness?”
So that’s why DAWN Denim, in collaboration with sustainable fashion expert Linda Mai Phung and the creative team at Lab Saigon, set out to create a number of “social experiments” to actively measure happiness levels of the workers in their Evolution3 factory.
The team installed 4 different, playful social experiments in order to gather data, honest criticism and insights. “We’re eager to learn more about hopes and dreams of our team and people behind the identity of Dawn, while involving local culture and respecting the heritage. This, with the intent to not only be “fair”, but create a truly long-lasting and loving relationship with the workers and the community at large.” – says Rachel.
The four experiments
So how do you get people in a factory to share their honest opinions, to make them part of the larger initiative and the company? These are the four experiments, filmed and animated by the Lab Saigon team:
#1: Core Values
An installation to rewire values of our company to align with our team. As Dawn adds new members, the core values may evolve to incorporate what’s important to them.
#2: Candy voting machine
A candy machine to let people vote on topics. Each month the company will open up different themes: from recognition, communication, to belonging and inclusion, and so one. This month the initiative starts with one simple question: “ Are you happy here?” This will show the Dawn team if they really are creating an environment where their employee can live a life they love.
#3: Time capsule
We are also launching a time capsule for failures, hopes, and dreams. People will have a safe space to give unfiltered views. After a while the notes will be collated and the data will be visualized. What do people regret the most? What do they hope for the most?
#4: Social graph
An interactive social graph of the connections within our team. Since for DAWN Denim, social wellbeing is an important quality of life, this will help unlock an insight into how the friendships of 175 team members will have evolved since they joined the company?
From [fair wear] to [love affair]
Will these installations do the trick, and actually get factory workers engaged in a conversation about their working circumstances, and how their job can contribute to an overall happier existence? Bright will stay close to the project and report to you, dear reader.
Marian: “Our intention with this project has been to show that there is a new breed of people within the industry. Not just on the manufacturing side, but also as the brand itself. We want to go beyond giving the factories certain rules to obey so that we can gain a certain certification. It really is about doing it right and having a real impact.”
And you? Are you interested to learn about this project, about fair fashion or about DAWN Denim? A good place to start is the “What is ethical and slow fashion? Why do we need a revolution?” event on the 7th of May. Do you have any ideas beyond that? Talk to Bright! We are always here to support your ideas!