As consumers of fashion, specifically ones on a budget, we face the tension between our demand for affordable clothes and our concern for perpetuating a system of cheap, dangerous labor to produce those clothes. While you can opt to purchase US brand labels, such clothes are rare (fair trade is even rarer, accounting for under 1% of all clothes) and don’t solve the immediate problem of garment worker exploitation in places like Bangladesh, Cambodia, and China.
From Greenwich Village to Dhaka, garment workers have suffered at the hands of negligent, profit-driven companies for over 100 years. The earliest, most tragic domestic example is the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, which killed 146 garment workers. Among the dead were disproportionately young, immigrant women, who were trapped in the factory because exit doors were locked. The event led to legislation that instituted safer workplace standards. However, over 100 years later, the site of garment production has shifted overseas but inhumane labor practices have remained. Over 1,000 workers were killed in the Rana phentermine where to buy Plaza building collapse, a disaster that could have been easily averted had companies and authorities complied with building codes. Brands that source from Rana Plaza include Mango and Walmart (you can find the full list here). Such brands turn a blind eye to atrocities in order to meet demand for “fast fashion.” Like the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy, we need legislation and enforcement of safety standards.
But what can we do?
1. Sign and share this petition on Avaaz.org to pressure companies like H&M and GAP to sign on to an agreement that would ensure Bangladesh building safety.
2. Don’t hesitate to ask companies to share information on factory working conditions. While this information is not readily available to consumers (Ethical Consumer is one helpful guide), some brands, like Nordstrom, are coming forward with such information to reassure consumers on ethical practices. By demonstrating concern to these brands about their compliance with fair-labor practices, companies will have more incentive to live up to them.
3. Boycotting. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, as consumers, we are part of the process that perpetuates cheap labor. I know I’d feel more comfortable wearing and blogging about clothes that are ethically produced. By choosing to boycott unethical fashion, and publicizing it through social media, we can put pressure on companies to promote safer, fairer workspaces.
Update: H&M has signed the agreement!