No More Fashion Victims – Three Things That You Can Do To Change The Industry

 In Ethical Fashion, The Political

You can’t have escaped the news of the tragic garment factory collapse in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh where over 900 people have been killed. The really sad thing is that this is not the first tragedy like this to occur, there have been numerous fires for example that haven’t received much media attention. In fact just yesterday there was another fire that killed at least 8 people in a knit wear factory. The only silver lining in this horrific event is that it has captured the attention of the global media and all of us who buy and wear clothes. Now is the time that we can stand up and make our voices count.

There are numerous online campaigns tackling different angles to create change in the fashion industry. The fashion industry is huge; over 80 billion garments are produced each year, and the global industry employs one sixth of the world’s population. However we know that many of these people are living below the poverty line. According to Fashioning Change, if all name brands selected to increase wages by one percent of profits, 125 million people would be taken out of poverty.

Real change has to happen on three levels, through government and legislation, through the industry and through us the consumers. It is not advisable to boycott the brands in question and those who produce in Bangladesh, whether we vote with our wallets and support fast fashion or not, we are all part of the system and have the opportunity to add our voice and make a change.

Please add your name and your voice to the following campaigns and share this with your friends. Let’s make fashion and the art of getting dressed in the morning something to be proud of, not something that costs lives.

+ Sign the Avvaz Guilt Free clothing petition

+ Join the People Tree Red Rage Campaign

+ Sign the 1% Campaign to urge fashion retailers to invest 1% of profits back in to change the industry

Further Reading:

If you want to know more about what happens in the fashion industry, I recommend Lucy Siegle’s book – To Die For, Is Fashion Wearing Out The World and becoming a regular reader at the US blog Ecouterre.

And I would love to know what you think about what has happened in Bangladesh and what three brands on the high street you trust most. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Yaron Millo

    Just finished recording a song about the Dhaka tragedy. Would really apreciate it if you could help get the word out.

  • John Robertson puts some thoughts online: I hope people recycle and improve them, or just comment link or like!

    Government & legislation

    Government and legislation can change the tariff system that relates cheap countries’ exports with the big buying blocs of north America and the European Union. If a country like Bangladesh got a lower tariff for introducing universal girls’ schools, health education, hospitals and pensions, then each of those would reduce the explosion of population among the poor. A higher tariff for countries that don’t want to change – maybe China – might help them too.

    There’s a debate in Europe about tariffs at the moment. Some MEPs want to continue with a 15% tariff wall around Europe to protect the democratic welfare states inside from being undercut. Others think that wealth trickles-down; if manufacturing moves to the cheapest countries, then shortage of labour will raise wages and wealth will trickle-down and spread-out in places like Bangladesh. I think the first lot are right, but most UK MEPs are among the second lot, lobbying for more and more free trade with countries like India and Mexico, simply because they are democracies. But Victorian Britain was a democracy of sorts. I think it needed more than an industrial revolution to sort-out poverty in Britain, and the same is true in Bangladesh. It needed a wealthy educated and influential group of people to make this happen in Britain (liberals who had seen the system work in Prussia) and it would take the same kinds of people to make it happen in Bangladesh. A better tariff system might change their minds about when to start doing this – now, to get more exports, or some-day-never because they need the poor to stay poor in order to get cheap production and exports.

    Government in Bangladesh India and Pakistan can help in another way. In the 1940s and 50s, the New Delhi government passed laws against advertising of western brands. The temptation to buy symbols of freedom had got in the way of achieving freedom. The temptation to look modern and western was and is too strong. People worked like slaves in a conformist, crowded, family-based society to get the the same clothes brands that are on a James Dean poster. It’s self-defeating. The more you want to like James Dean, the less chance you get to behave like him (as though I knew anything about James Dean but he looks a bit of a rebel). So I think that asian governments should say bugger to the lobbysts from the UK and USA who want Marks and Spencer or Coca Cola written-up all over the place. They should simply ban the advertising of big western brands.

    Lastly, UK taxpayers subsidise a bit of fashion PR called London Fashion Week and its relatives.
    I used to know which departments subsidised it – I think it was Dept Culture, Dept. Business and Greater London Authority. I may be out of date now. But, anyway, this PR system is in the hands of a trade association run by big clothes importers. The fringes are influenced by fashion colleges and pundits who select applicants. The pundits have idea about politics, factory inspection, and UK industry that are safe to hold within the industry. Their ethical side-show called “esthetica” has a rather strange bunch of ethics that are not checked among people from other ethical groups like the Soil Association, The Fair Trade people, The Vegan Society, or any other. They are more like X-factor judges. Insiders like Harold Tillman notice that the pundits sometimes choose un-businesslike people who do not have a supplier for the clothes samples they put on show, or export and do not get paid. Some of them are not good at sourcing from their fellow taxpayers who work in UK clothes factories.

    You can tell from my discription that I think the system needs to change, probably with clothes factories nominating exhibitors or giving them references. And the judges need to take account of whether clothes have been made in democratic welfare states, or some compromise, or at worst, China. To illustrate how bad the system is I’ll quote Terra Plana’s website. They get subsidised PR at London Fashion Week from UK taxpayers, but their website says “china is arguably more democratic than the UK”. How many UK taxpayers want to pay for that? Or Bangladeshis?


    I hope that mainstream brands like M&S can go back to their roots and say more about the provenance of their clothing. Apparently they stopped in about 2003 after a mistaken attempt to set-up shops without changing rooms in France. Their solution? Give-up their old UK suppliers but continue to charge high prices because people pay for brands. I’d like them to offer a story about where their clothes come from for the high price, rather than just advertising to try to compete with Primark.

    Individual Consumers