So, talking about the fashion industry, is there a pivot towards sustainability, or is it just a marketing hoax?
You may argue that fashion is the second most polluting industry on the planet and sustainability is nothing but greenwashing tactics used by marketing experts while the industry lacks substance. Contradictorily, you may also argue that there is a new awakening and the industry is changing for good. From conscious consumers to Fashion Revolution’s “Who made my clothes” and from Fashion Tech Labs’ innovative startups to Kering’s EP&L measure of success, the industry actors are taking a stand for good.
However at Fix That Shirt, the team believes that ideas don’t change the world, but acting on those ideas does! Hence they decided to use their time during the lockdown by manually upcycling their wardrobes and textiles to make free masks for people who can't afford to pay for those. How great is that? They are not looking for a profit, they just want to help the ones in need.
And to say that it was a hard task would be an understatement! They started running without many resources, had absolutely no incentive in making masks, the French government was communicating that “masks are not useful”, and having no sewing machine did not make the task easier. Nonetheless, they had the vision, commitment, and willingness to do it.
So on April 2nd, 2020, using an old cotton shirt, a pair of kitchen scissors, and some paper clips, they made their first prototype. Soon a friend lent his mother's sewing machine and another volunteered her time to help with the masks and yet another offered help with the French translations and that's how fixthatshirt.com was born.
Fix That Shirt is an online platform where people could join in solidarity and volunteer to make masks for those in need and conversely, people without means to buy a mask could send them a request for masks from anywhere across France. The team at FiTS will create and send the masks to the requesters for free.
You may wonder, why are they doing it for free? Well, here are some facts:
"There are 152,894 fabric masks for sale on Etsy, and they cost $10.83 on average."
"Each person who works outside his home can, therefore, use 3 (masks) per day: 1 for the morning, 1 for the afternoon, and 1 possibly for help."
30% (7.5 million) of salaried French people earn less than the minimum wage while 3.7 million people are unemployed. At least 11.2 million people are at potential risk in France alone!
Taking into account the frequent washes the fabric masks have to undergo to remain effective, the wear and tear of the fabric arrive way sooner limiting their lifespan to 30 days of regular use. This means, with the lifting of the lockdown and re-opening of the schools, a family of 4 spends 120€ (4X3X10) on an average per month on masks.
This made them question if health and safety should be privileges or basic human rights? Obviously they’ve chosen the later by making their masks absolutely free for the ones in need. Yet, it didn’t come without its challenges. The first few requests for free masks received on Fix That Shirt were from imposters and scammers pretending to be hospital workers to get free masks from them and then sell those.
Also, reaching out to French people, speaking in broken French with foreign accents –as most of the integrants of the team are not French– was not an easy task. Yet, we did not give up.
Today, after having donated 1200 masks across France when people have taken Twitter by storm with pictures of “free masks distributed to them by the government, calling them worse than mops” people have continuously sent FiTS more requests for their masks and much appreciation and gratitude through the crowdfunding campaign they run last May on Ulule by the name “Des Masque Gratuits” to produce 1000 more free masks.
They are not a brand, as a matter of fact, but yet they are a diverse bunch of fashion students –that will arrive far with their committed vision–, some unemployed APS holders and a few young executives who share a common passion to not let the world burn down to pieces.
I couldn’t be happier for this initiative, and I thank Saba, Co-Founder of FiTS for reaching out with this wonderful initiative! She shared with me the quote from Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see”, and it shows that they are taking the lead in France.
Mes félicitations!!! <3