BY DANA BOWEN
Hundreds of people donned their garments with the tags on the outside last week to raise the question of where our clothes come from. Last Thursday was the first annual Fashion Revolution Day which is held in hopes to strike conversation across the globe about where our clothes are made.
It comes exactly a year after the fatal collapse of the Bangladesh garment factory, which killed 1,133 people and injured over 2,500 people on April 24, 2013. Because of the building’s poor and unsafe build, the factory which made clothes for companies like Walmart and Primark left over 800 children orphaned from its fall.
In order to spark conversation, consumers shared photos last week of their inside out clothing on social media with the hash tag #insideout.
Organizer Carry Somers brought forth Fashion Revolution as a way to draw attention to the clothing that we buy. Big name clothing stores that sell cheap and easy to make garments often purchase it from these types of factories where workers are treated poorly for a minuscule salary.
Although many of us are aware of where our $15 T-shirts may come from, the facts on the conditions in which they were made are often shrugged off.
With 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s export market coming from garment manufacture, over half of that output is sold to EU countries. These clothes are constructed mainly by women who are given few opportunities to put food on the table for their children. Women are forced to take the jobs that no one else wants which means working in unsafe environments with no benefits and very little pay.
However, since Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza collapse, the origins of our cheaply produced pieces are being acknowledged across the globe.
Although the first Fashion Revolution Day has passed, efforts to change the garment manufacture industry have been on a continuing basis. Last Thursday brought together thousands of people just on social media, who will now be more aware of the industry.
After the collapse, Bangladesh was rife with violent protests surrounding the politics of garment manufacturing and set off the Bangladesh Accord which drew attention throughout the world. Even this past November in Vancouver, protesters called on the Bay requesting that they sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Over 100 people showed up to support change for factory workers.
Fashion Revolution Day is not to shame those who don’t buy locally. It is simply to promote better working conditions for those in places like Bangladesh. The fact is, without those factories, thousands of people are without jobs and an income. The point is to raise those standards, so they may work in better conditions.
So what has become of such a tragic event?
The UK based Bangladesh Accord along with its U.S. based alliance have committed to properly inspect factories. They are to provide financial support for improvements while compensating workers while the change is being made.
Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi government has changed the law so that garment workers can now form trade unions without prior permission from factory owners. While the former monthly wage for those stood at $38, it has now been increased by 77 per cent as of this past November.
Meanwhile, designers everywhere are finding ways to create more sustainable products and many of those have Not Just a Label to help them do so. Not Just a Label is a community of 15,000 designers in over 100 countries that are trying to take action through their designs.
“For too long, sustainability in fashion has been a ‘hot topic’ and a ‘talking point’,” as it says on their website. “This is where the talk stops and the action starts. It’s time to restart the revolution.”
Fashion Revolution Day encourages consumers to consider their purchases’ origins on a regular basis by supporting growth of better working conditions for those in garment factories.
For more information on the cause visit: http://fashionrevolution.org/