If you're not in a public place right now, turn your clothes inside out and have a look at the labels. What brand are they? Do they say where they were made? Do you know WHO made them?
Because the fact is, even in these crazy modern times, clothes aren’t made by magic, or even robots. It’s still people sewing them. So if you look at a pair of jeans, every seam, every pocket detail is guided through the machine by a person – yes, in production lines for efficiency, but it’s still people doing it. Which, over the last few years as clothes have got cheaper and cheaper, has made a lot of us wonder how it can possibly work.
3 years ago on Apr 24th, the deadliest garment factory accident in history happened in Bangladesh, when an eight storey building, the Rana Plaza, collapsed, crushing the hundreds of workers who were in it. By the time the search for bodies was stopped 3 weeks later, the death toll was 1,130. Approx 2,500 were injured too. This came in a year when approx. 800 people also died in garment factory fires in Bangladesh, caused by overcrowding, blocked fire escapes, unsuitable buildings, cheap building materials.
While we can't be over simplistic about the causes of a desperate situation like this (bad building, bad regulation, bad government, mega-bad building owner all played a big part) the Rana Plaza disaster was a wake up call to the world. People died making our clothes in unsafe factories, and they weren't even being paid much to do it. We started to realise that there is no such thing as cheap clothes*, it's just someone else paying the price. Clothing companies giving in to pressure to admit involvement and pay compensation made us realise that as consumers we have power, but also responsibility (I think Spiderman had something to say about that too...).
*that's not to say expensive clothes are any better - one of the things that struck me about this situation was how price, and perceived value, of high end brands didn't translate to any increase in pay or working conditions.
One of the campaigns that came from this was Fashion Revolution, whose simple message #whomademyclothes aims to start a revolution in the clothing industry that will make us realise how connected we are, and push brands to improve conditions and accountability. I encourage everyone who knows this is the right thing to join the campaign and ask some questions.
"Who Made My Clothes should be a simple question. Most people would expect a brand to at least know the final factory where their garments are cut and sewn. The Behind the Barcode Fashion Report published last year found that 48% of brands hadn’t traced the factories where their garments were made, 75% didn’t know where their fabrics came from and 91% didn’t know where the raw materials came from. " Carry Sommers, founder of Fashion Revolution on ethical.market blog.
And finally, you'll be relieved to know that Lost Shapes is in the 52% who do know where our garments are made, so I drew a little poster to fill you in! Detailed assessment of the garment suppliers we use can be found on the Fair Wear Foundation website.
NO MORE BLOGGING
I stopped writing this blog a while ago - social media just seems a more responsive way to share ideas these days (plus I never got 'round to it!). I'll leave these posts up for now for anyone who wants to get a bit more of a sense of what's behind what I do.