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It’s been 7 years since the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed resulting in the death of 1138 people with over 2,400 injured. The Fashion Revolution Week is an annual event supported globally in memory of those who lost their lives, the injured and the people still impacted by this tragic event. It also serves to remind us of the social and environmental impact that each of us make through our support of the fashion industry.
Seeing the media images of shoppers queuing outside clothing stores as lockdown has started to lift is quite poignant. Many of our high street and online clothing brands source clothing through complex supply chains in developing countries where more than 80% of workers are women. Many of these supply chains are linked to human rights abuses, limited workers rights and poor conditions. Cotton growing, processing and textile manufacture is also linked to forced labour in some areas of the world.
Thankfully there have been many recent improvements in factory conditions, but there are still many workers who are home based working on piece rate, particularly for hand stitched and beaded items. Working from home provides flexibility and helps with childcare, but these workers are not visible, are often isolated with little representation. The fluctuation of piece rate can also mean working long hours, and periods with little or no work, exacerbated as orders were cancelled when retail closed in response to COVID.
So what can we do as we set off in search of a new summer wardrobe?
Pre-loved clothing is becoming increasingly popular – for many the thought of ‘hand me downs’ from being the younger sibling can strike a note, but there are bargains to be had out there. In addition to feeling good about doing your bit for the planet, you could also be supporting the third sector too. Reuse websites deliver to your home, where you can try on in comfort and return if not suitable. The other benefit is you are less likely to be seen in the same outfit as others on the beach!
If pre-loved isn’t for you, then ask questions of the retailer. Who made this, and where? What is your policy on paying your workers and where is the material sourced. Is the cotton organic? If it doesn’t state ‘organic’ on the label, then the likeihood is it isn’t. There are a number of smaller retailers like the Embroidery Barn in Dorset who stock school uniform and personalised sweatshirts and fleeces made from recycled plastic bottles and organic yarns.
For more information and to ask questions of some of our favourite high street stores about how they are sourcing and policing their supply chains world wide check out www.Fashionrevolution.org website. It makes interesting reading.