Today marks the 3 year anniversary of one of the most horrific workplace atrocities the garment industry has ever seen. On April 24, 2013 Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1100 workers and causing many more to be injured, some having to sever their own limbs to escape. If that’s hard for you to read (I know it was and still is for me), I encourage you to do some research about fast fashion and where your clothes come from. There’s a cost to your $4 t-shirt and it may be more than you bargained for. Having said that, this problem is not exclusive to fast fashion. There are a number of brands with higher price points who also manufacture their goods in factories with less than ideal labour conditions and wages. In fact, a lot of companies are so disconnected from the manufacturing process that they may not have any idea what kind of conditions their products are being made in (ignorance is bliss).
As a consumer I didn’t know and, admittedly, wasn’t doing much to look into it. I was all about my cheap yoga pants, hoodies, and jeans. Sure, they’d wear out in a couple of months but then I’d just toss them and get a new pair! No big deal, right? Wong. I actually cringe at the thought of this now. Brands that I wear, that I’ve promoted on this very site, produced clothing at that factory (I’m looking at you, Joe Fresh). Really taking the time to think about this made me feel sick to my stomach.
Right now I imagine you’re thinking something like “Ok Amanda, I hear you loud and clear from that soapbox, but what can I honestly do to fix this?”
I’m so glad you asked! Today is the Fashion Revolution Day, marking the end of fashion revolution week and the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy. Fashion Revolution is a non-profit from the UK aimed at creating a fashion industry that ‘values people, the environment, creativity, and profit in equal measure’. Their current initiative involves creating transparency in the fashion industry via a social media campaign asking clothing brands ‘Who made my clothes’?
“Is a social media campaign really going to make a difference? I mean, isn’t this one of those things where
Millenials post a bunch of pictures on the internet but don’t actually DO anything?”
(fun fact, ‘Millenials’ is not recognized by spellcheck)
I feel you on this, I really do. But I found this whole movement through social media because someone on my Instagram feed made a post asking who made their clothes! It made me watch documentaries and read articles and commit myself to changing the way I shop. CHANGING THE WAY I SHOP. And that’s it right there. As consumers, our dollar is our vote, and I’m choosing to give mine to companies who are invested in the well being of the people who make their product. Some argue that the approach of boycotting companies who do not have transparent or ethical production methods is not helpful because the people in those countries need those jobs to live. I would argue that in order for the standards to change, big companies that invest in these countries need to pressure the factories to adopt stricter policies with respect to working conditions. In order for those companies to have any incentive to do so, they need to be pressured by their consumer aka their bottom line. It’s not going to happen overnight, but companies like Joe Fresh, Benneton, and Primark (who all had clothing made at the Rana Plaza factory) bring big money to these communities. They have the ability to say “our consumers want fair labour practices so shape up or we’ll take our money somewhere else”. That’s the power of the consumer, and how voting with your dollar helps. It may mean buying clothes that cost you more money, but in the end this will only turn you into a more conscious consumer.
So you’re all fired up and ready to do something now, right? Right. Good. Here’s a list to get you started.
- Watch the documentary ‘The True Cost“. You can see the trailer here and it’s available on Netflix, Itunes, and Amazon. Their site also has a great buying better guide and a list of brands who deserve your dollars.
- Visit Fashion Revolution to find out more about their initiative, download some amazing resources like their Guide to Being a Fashion Revolutionary, and read their White Paper.
- Take to social media, turn your shirt inside out, snap a pic of the tag and ask #whomademyclothes
- Be a conscious shopper (Ethical brands list coming to SCL soon). Choose to buy pieces that are made responsibly and built to last. Donate any clothing that is in decent condition and RECYCLE any clothing that can’t be passed on rather than throwing it in the garbage. (Value Village takes single socks and tattered clothing which is repurposed). Check out your local thrift shop to find new-to-you pieces.
- Educate yourself. Ask questions. Be a pain in the ass. Have a favourite brand but not sure how their clothing is made? Ask them!
I’m excited to bring you more content like this over the coming weeks. I’m certainly no expert in this and I hope my journey to become a more conscious consumer will help you make better buying decisions as well. I’m not perfect and will inevitably share something that doesn’t comply with these standards, but I think the act of just being aware and making an effort is the first step. I hope you’ll join me today (and not just today) in asking