One of my most bothersome quandaries about modern life is clothing – we’re now at a stage where a full outfit, including shoes, can be bought for less than the cost of a restaurant meal for one. Where people would once have had a few items of clothing that were made to last, clothing is as disposable commodity as a can of fizzy drink.
As the cost of the garments has gone down – so it seems has the quality of the threads and the ethics of the manufacturers.
According to research by international aid and development organisation Baptist World Aid Australia (in a report released in 2015 – two years after the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed 1,133 and injured over 2,500 workers) over 85 per cent of companies are not paying their workers enough to meet basic needs.
The survey (published by fashionrevolution.org) graded 219 major fashion brands on their practices and found that – 48 per cent of retailers don’t even know where their clothes are made so can’t ensure the ethical treatment of workers nor can they say that environmentally friendly methods are used to produce them.
The co-founder of Fashion Revolution Day Carry Somers said: “The new report shows why we need a Fashion Revolution. We don’t know the true cost of the things we buy. In Bangladesh for example, the current minimum wage of US $68 per month falls short of the US $104 per month, which is considered a fair living wage. But it doesn’t take much for the end-consumer to make a difference to the lives of those making our clothes. Research shows that an additional 30c per t-shirt would ensure living wages are met in Bangladesh. The fashion industry supply chain is fractured and producers have become faceless. This is costing lives.”
She added: “Brands and retailers may not know where their clothes are made, or be listening to what the people in their supply chain are saying, but they will most certainly be paying attention to what their customers are saying. We have incredible power as consumers, if we choose to use it“.
Shannon Whitehead, the founder of Factory45, an accelerator program that gives designers and makers the resources to start sustainable businesses in the USA, said in her HuffPost blog about promotion of the documentary film The True Cost: The True Cost of Fast Fashion: Continuing the Conversation she said: “The reality is that the fashion industry is a 3 trillion dollar a year business and only two percent of apparel companies source from suppliers that pay their workers a fair and living wage.”
As a frequent shopper of the low price chains and supermarket clothing department I know that, as it costs so little to buy, it must mean that someone is suffering as a result of my penchant for cheap, throw-away fashion. This knowledge, informed by campaigns as those shown above, make a real case for spending my clothing pound in a way that at the very least will do no harm.
So, I’d like to challenge myself…..
In this leap year I’m willing to commit myself to a challenge – which I’m going to call the Ethical 366. A challenge to, at the very least, dress ethically for a leap year.