The 24th April marks the fourth anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy. This garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,134 people and injuring around 2,500 others, mainly women aged 18-20 years old. Children were among the number that died as the nursery facilities were on the top floor and 200 people have still not been found. It is the biggest and most horrific industrial accident to have happened within the fashion industry and highlights the dangerous working conditions that such workers toil under. When the workers arrived in the morning they didn't want to go into the building because of large cracks that had appeared in the walls making it obviously unsafe. Gang members were paid by the owner to beat the workers back into the factory, being told if they didn't work they wouldn't get paid for the whole month. Many survivors were trapped in the rubble for days and had to have limbs amputated. The workers were making clothes for 29 US, European and Canadian labels such as Benneton, Walmart and Primark. Their normal shift was 12-13 hours long with just two days off a month.
A new accord on factory and building safety in Bangladesh was drawn up not long afterwards but many of the American brands involved did not want to sign up to it and decided to draw up their own plan which was strongly criticised for being less stringent. Only 9 of the brands attended the meetings to discuss victim compensation and only 7 had contributed to the fund by the following year. Full compensation has still yet to be paid to all the workers from the big name brands whose garments were being made at rock bottom prices. Sadly there have been many other disasters before and since Rana Plaza including the fire at Tazreen fashions which killed 117 and injured over 200.
So why aren't things changing and what can we do about it? I believe we all have a great powers we can wield and one is social media; Ask your favourite brands where your garments are made and about the workers. Secondly use your purchasing power; if you aren't happy with their answer or want to buy something knowing it has been produced ethically then look to other brands who offer this.
The 24th April is Fashion Revolution day so join us and be part of it and use the hashtag #whomademyclothes. To find out more watch The True Cost movie available on Netflix.
#fashionrevolution #ethicalfashion #thetruecost
Green spin AKA greenwashing is now rife in every industry and as fashion is world's 2nd largest polluter this is a tactic that is often used by the global fashion giants to make us feel good about what we are buying. And it works! Just think about how many garments you now see with and organic cotton label on it, or you read that their stores are run by solar power etc. While it is good to see something being done rather than nothing often this is to divert attention from bad practices they would rather we didn't know about. And how often do many of us look further than that label or that bold claim?
H&M, as I have written about before, have an in-store recycling initiative that on the face of it puts them in a good light. However, when you consider it would take them 12 years to recycle what they actually produce in just 48 hours this seems like a clever ploy just to get us unsuspecting customers in store to buy more. Forever 21 is a another huge fashion brand in the US that a few years ago installed what was then the largest roof top installation of solar panels in the Los Angeles county, but at the same time they opened another vast store selling more clothes cheaper than ever, thus negating any ecological good done by the solar panel arrays.
Some of this greenwashing is done on a much more subtle way using practices learnt from the food industry. Store fittings in natural looking materials, illustrations of leaves and trees or even just green swing tags make us unconsciously believe these are more natural, sustainable products when many of them are far from it. So how do we know who is really doing the right thing?
Well, on a simplistic level if a garment is cheap then it really can't be very sustainable. The workers cannot have been paid much nor looked after properly and the fabrics would not be organic. But if you want to go into more detail there are also several places you can look.
The Higg Index, due to be released next year, is a growing reference of assessments on fashion brands that will show environmental footprints of their garments. Rank a Brand is another agency who grades brands from different industries and Project Just is another searchable database. Corporate Sustainability Reports are often available on a company's website which may also shed some light on how much the brand is doing. If they use terms that come with some sort of certification such as organic, fair trade and recycled then it's easy to substantiate rather than the words sustainable and eco-friendly which have nothing to back them up.
#Greenwashing #HiggIndex #RankABrand #ProjectJust #Fashion #Green
So now I am starting to have to make some big decisions regarding the business and the brand. The main one at the moment is what route to take to market. Should I sell the Boy Wonder product direct to customers through my own e-commerce site or should I sell wholesale to boutiques or department stores? Well, both have their benefits and their pitfalls and weighing it all up is quite difficult for a newbie like me.
Selling direct to customers has the obvious benefit of a higher profit margin as no one is taking thier cut along the way however more investment would have to be made into stock without knowing it will all sell. The costs of setting up a professional e-commerce site would also stretch my budget. To add to this I would have to spend a lot more time and energy in marketing the brand to let customers know who and where we are and what we do.
I had thought early on in my research that supplying a high end department store such as Selfridges or Harvey Nicholls would be the way to go. Large stores such as this would want a large volume of stock to sell which may not be possible when manufacturing in the UK. However maybe this is something to investigate and aim for further down the line.
Maybe a mixture of the two routes will eventually work best as it does for my competitors but as I am setting up and establishing myself its important to keep things focused and not spread myself too thin. If I can get two or three childrenswear boutiques interested in stocking some of the range then the brand will reach their already established customer base. This seems to be the best path for Boy Wonder right now so I am hunting out kids clothes shops that stock eco brands and will see if I can bring a little wonder to their lives!
Please let me know of any independant retailers that might be interested in stocking the Boy Wonder brand :-)
#BoysFashion #KidsClothesShops #Route2Market #Fashion
Transparency is a buzz word in the fashion industry these days, but what does it really mean? As consumers we are becoming more aware of what we are buying and want to know the provenance of them. Who made them, were the workers well paid and working in safe environments and what are they made from? Some of us would also ask what impact the materials and processes of manufacturing our purchase has had on the workers and the environment.
Supply chain transparency is the amount of information that a company makes available about all these things. Who their suppliers are, where they source their products from and how and if their factories are inspected. The supply chain is the people and resources involved in moving the product from the supplier to you, the buyer.
In this consumer lead, tech-savvy world we should be able to access this information freely and easily. However some brands have no idea who makes their clothes and what impact they have and some quite honestly don't seem to care. We have all seen the headlines when a big high street name has been caught out using child workers or paying slave wages and I (and probably many of you) assumed that after having been publicly shamed they would get their act together. Sadly this isn't always the case. There are repeat offenders and some that feign complete ignorance and shift the blame. However most brands are now starting to realise that transparency is the way forward and enables a brand to be truly credible and authentic even when they have to be honest about problems they are trying to address.
As a case in point, back in the 90's, Nike were seen to be one of the worst culprits dogged by reports of sweatshops but are now leading the way in transparency. There are over 150 reports of Nike factory inspections available to read on the Fair Labor Association's website that attest to this. This was change brought about by activism and boycott more than 20 years ago and which now gives the consumer a great power in influencing brand behaviour through our social media channels . If we aren't happy with what they are doing or want to know more, we should say so and they need to listen. The more we know, or demand to know, as buyers of any kind of product the more we can choose to buy according to our ethics and support good practice around the world.
Patagonia uses very clear and creative ways to show complete transparency about their supply chain and is proud to do so. Their customers appreciate this and it becomes part of the story behind the garments themselves. How fascinating is it to learn how many people it took to create your purchase, how many sheep to provide the wool or how many miles it has travelled to get to the store?
#SupplyChainTransparency #Nike #Patagonia
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