On the fifth anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza disaster, which killed 1,134 garment factory workers and seriously injured a further 2,500 people, Fashion Revolution are encouraging shoppers to ask brands #whomademyclothes.
The fashion industry is currently under pressure to create ethically made, sustainable clothing while ensuring their garment workers have safe working conditions and fair pay.
The Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh — which housed five garment production factories making garments for some of the world’s biggest fashion brands — had cracks in the walls before its collapse. Although there had been warnings the structure was unsafe, workers were forced to go to work. The disaster not only shines a light on the appalling conditions garment factory workers face to make our clothes, but it also highlights how more often than not, workers concerns are ignored. People working in the fashion industry are wrongly seen as working machines, not as people with human rights.
Today, around 75 million people, predominantly women, work in the fashion and textiles industry around the globe and according to IndustriALL Global Union, an alarming 90 percent of these workers have no possibility of negotiating their wages or conditions. They are “subject to exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe conditions, with very little pay”.
It's about time that all fashion and retail businesses come to realise that people and the planet’s resources can’t be abused without consequences. The industry needs to accept accountability and come up with new, innovative ways of producing fashion, that takes care of the planet and its inhabitants.
"We want to see the fashion industry, respect its producers and understand its processes. We want a clear, uninterrupted vision from origin to disposal to foster dignity, empowerment and justice for the people who make our clothes and to protect the environment we all share.” Says Fashion Revolution’s founder and creative director, Orsola De Castro.
But, how much do consumers care?
According to fashion revolution’s report, a lot. In a survey of over 10,000 consumers from around the globe, 78% said it’s somewhat or very important for a company to be transparent by providing information on where and how they’re products are made. However, regardless of consumer demand for transparency, only 40% of the brands and retailers earning over an annual $500 million publish a policy on equal pay both for their own employees and in their supply chain.
Why is transparency it so tricky?
"The vast majority of today’s fashion brands and retailers do not own their manufacturing facilities, making it difficult to monitor or control working conditions across the highly globalised supply chain. This can sometimes be used as an excuse for brands to evade responsibility for how their products are made," continues the Fashion Revolution campaign. "Brands and retailers may work with hundreds or even thousands of factories at any given time – and that is just the suppliers that cut, sew and assemble our garments. There are many facilities further down the chain that weave, dye and finish materials and farms that grow fibres used in our clothing."
What can I do?
As consumers, we have the power to shift the fashion industry's manufacturing processes changing our buying habits -- only purchasing sustainable, ethically made clothing.
We can also encourage more public disclosure from brands by supporting campaigns that call for them to publish their supplier information. Join the #whomademyclothes campaign by sharing the hashtag on social media, the more times the hashtag is shared; the more brands will listen.
Write or call policymakers and ask them to do two things:
— To implement regulation ensuring brands are responsible for the impact they have on the lives of the people working in their supply chains, at home and abroad;
— Require brands to report transparently about their social and environmental impacts across the entire value chain using a common framework.