If you can spare 5 minutes today please contact the brand of a piece of your clothing and ask them ‘who made my clothes?’
Today is the two year anniversary since the Rana Plaza catastrophe in Bangladesh where 1133 people were killed when a building housing garment factories collapsed. The previous few days, when cracks appeared in the building walls, a number of workers in the building were evacuated but the garment workers, threatened with losing their jobs if they didn’t return to work, were the vast majority of the casualties and fatalities.
This tragedy has been a major catalyst in highlighting the conditions many garment workers are subjected to with reports of gross mistreatment and abuse and working dangerously long hours in unsafe conditions for exceptionally low pay. Changes have transpired such as factory safety audits, workers unions (without the owners permission as was the previous case!) being formed and confidential report lines for workers being set up. And although the Bangladeshi government have increased minimum wage workers continue to seek a further increase. The point has also been risen that as garment factory buildings are undergoing renovations to meet standards, workers are not receiving any compensation for loss of earnings.
Today is #FashionRevolutionDay where people are encouraged to wear their clothes inside out to demonstrate (through the tags on show) the supply chain of a garment. All too often companies outsource production through an agent who seeks to get the lowest price possible for production. Fierce competition means that ultimately it is the worker that pays the price as they are forced to make more and work longer hours for exceptionally low pay. Subsequently, the actual brand and therefore the garment wearer is oblivious to where their clothes are being made and by whom. The chain of production, from field to production, is well and truly lost.
Livia Firth, a staunch fashion activist and founder of the Green Carpet Challenge puts it well - "This is a global problem - we need to question how loyal we are to all brands to flush out sweatshops all over the world, even in developed countries, on our doorstep. If we imagine we are voting every time we buy something, and we use our purchase power, then things will change."
One way for the public to show support for a new standard of fashion production is to question companies on their transparency and the ins and outs of their supply chain. A simple tweet to a particular company, a phone call, email, whatever, is all it takes to show a committed interest. Support the companies that do show transparency and if you have the chance to get involved, link in with what’s going on in your country on Fashion Revolution Day.
Thanks for reading (and thanks in advance for asking #whomademyclothes?)