1133 garment workers were killed and over 2400 were injured when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013. Well-known fashion retail companies such as C&A, Mango, Primark, and Kik produced articles in this complex. Even though cracks on the ceiling were noticed just moments before the caving-in, supervisors told the workers to stay inside and continue their work. 38 people were charged with murder but no one has been convicted. This is what the cruel reality in Bangladesh looks like, workers are treated like slaves, without reference to our common humanity.
Over the past 20-30 years, the way we have been consuming goods has changed. Especially when it comes to transportation, information and communication. Which leads us to the thesis: The faster – the better? We are in the habit of buying more clothes than we used to and spend less money on them. In order to break this vicious circle, of more and rapid production of clothes, means that we have to face the true cost of fast and cheap fashion.
Fashion supply chains are incredibly complicated. Before the raw material becomes fabric it has already passed through several different types of manufacturing processes, and the working conditions of those who do the processing are unknown. That only marks the halfway point before our clothes end up in shopping malls. The brands often don’t own factories, so the production is subcontracted to third party suppliers, making it difficult to hold companies and their representatives accountable.
In need for a change
The tragic event in Bangladesh is only the peak of the daily exploitation sewers are affected by, but it sparked the light for the modern-day Fashion Revolution: A non-profit global movement that stands up for a systematic change in how we consume fashion and the industries behind it. They are convinced that in addition to buying fewer and better products we should as well keep asking questions about the realities behind what we are purchasing. This is why they established the campaign #whomademyclothes. This campaign encourages consumers to ask brands and retailers to publicly disclose how and under which conditions their clothes are made.
Nazma Aktar, a union worker in Dhaka said that she wants brands to treat the life of garment workers the same way they would treat the living and working conditions of people in the West. Transparency will bring wider recognition to the many workers and guarantee a fair treatment within the fashion supply chain. This, in return, shall help to ensure their work is properly valued and justly paid in the future.
Be the change
Skeptics may say activism like the #wohmademyclothes campaign is leading nowhere. But brands are already reacting to the consumers’ requests – they have to! For instance, the shopping platform Transparentshopping.com unites brands, who are willing to show transparency in production and price.
Although we all feel deeply upset about tragedies like the factory collapse in 2013, we don’t feel responsible. But we can take on responsibility by consuming fair and sustainable goods, and moreover by becoming politically active. Changing something, of course, seems like quite a hard thing to do, but not impossible.
Header image credits royalty free