Thursday April 24th 2014 marked the one year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh where over 1000 people lost their lives whilst making clothes for a number of Western High Street brands. This horrific tragedy could have been avoided if Governments and brands worked together to enforce better working conditions in not only Bangladesh but other major garment producing companies. The sad reality is the majority of brands only pay attention to these issues- when we consumers make our voices heard and show that we do not want to wear clothes that have been produced through the misery of our fellow citizens on the other side of the globe. April 24th marked a day of protest on London’ s Oxford street in addition to a campaign called insideout where people were encouraged to wear their clothes inside out displaying the label and asking brands where their clothes were made.
It was also a day of sharing information on the issues surrounding garment production- something that a lot of consumers are unaware of – although this is changing especially when disasters like Rana Plaza grab the worlds attention. I went to the screening of a film,Tears in the Fabric, produced by the Rainbow Collective. Rather than focus on the failings of the numerous clothing brands involved it told a story of a mother who lost her two daughters and was struggling to raise her beautiful grandsons. People who are living in oppressive conditions usually get used to their voices not being heard, but Ms Begum, like many other people affected by the disaster, was extremely sharp and highly vocal about the injustice of the situation. You could see sadness mixed with anger in her eyes and hear it in her voice. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the scene of the factory rubble which contained a mixture of the clothes of the brands mixed with the clothes of the workers who were killed. Ms Begum and her grandsons picked up clothes showing the camera the labels of brands which were being manufactured and when doing so, without words asked the question why haven’t they compensated me and the thousands of people affected by this tragedy.
Countless lives have also been lost in clothing factory fires in countries such as Cambodia and there have also been reports of workers collapsing , being beaten, low wages…the list goes on. In the 21st century I think its time for these issues to be a thing of the past, especially when the CEO’s of the worlds largest clothing retailers are billionaires. It all boils down to recognizing that the life of a garment worker in Asia has the same value of the lives of consumers in the West. Luckily there are some clothing brands that adopt this philosophy and the screening of the Ms Begum’s story was followed with a charity auction of brands produced ethically and with sustainable principles, with proceeds going to families still waiting for compensation. Some of my favourites are shown below.
Itsy Bitsy Vintage
The momentum from the Rana Plaza is continuing and next week, Thursday May 1st the will be an Ethical Fashion Show in London with a discussion panel including Observer journalist, Lucy Siegle and founder of Fair trade clothing line People Tree, Safia Minnie. There will also be a number of brands available for sale including some hand made and vintage accessories from my boutique; www.realmoftreasure.com. To my London based followers I would love to see you at the event and I hope you all watch and share the excellent Tears in the Fabric documentary.