If you’re an Instagram or Facebook addict, your stream for the past week might have been filled with photos like this:
People young and old asking who made their clothes, and calling for a fashion revolution.
Why are we asking #whomademyclothes?
To commemorate the anniversary of Rana Plaza, and to give you the most ethical selfie opportunity you’ll find, Fashion Revolution week (18 – 24 April) asked people to take a selfie and tag their favourite brands, asking: who made my clothes?
We at the Young Workers Centre decided to take the challenge one step further. Keelia and I committed to wearing all ethical outfits for the week, and took a snap every day to post on Instagram.
What happened at Rana Plaza?
Three years ago, the Bangladeshi garment factory Rana Plaza complex collapsed due to shonky construction and a boss who told workers to ignore the cracks in the walls and keep working. It caused the deadliest garment factory accident in history.
3,122 workers, mostly young women, went to work in Rana Plaza that day to cut and sew clothes for popular Western brands including Primark, Mango, Walmart and Benetton.
1,134 of those workers were killed. More than 2,500 were injured.
Imagine a third of your workplace not going home today.
Why did Rana Plaza happen?
Western brands compete to sell clothing for bargain basement prices, which means the factories producing their clothes are forced to cut corners and pump out more clothing faster and cheaper. This is why Bangladesh, which produces US$20 billion in garment exports, frequently sees building fires and collapses and is home of the notoriously low US$68/month minimum wage.
So if I pay more for my clothes, does that make them sweatshop-free?
It might! But it might not. When we don’t know who made our clothes, it’s hard to know how much of our cash is going to the workers. When brands don’t even know who made their clothes, or won’t be open with customers, well, we’ve got a problem.
It’s time for a fashion revolution
Trade unions, shoppers, and many in the fashion industry have been calling for a fashion revolution to force brands to be transparent about who made their clothes. Are the workers safe from harm? Are they paid a living wage?
How can I tell if clothing is ethical?
There are lots of organisations who put out ethical clothing guides. Some measure workers’ wages and conditions and access to trade unions, others measure transparency, so although there isn’t one definitive guide, these will help you get started:
Ethical Clothing Australia http://ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au/ (our personal favourite)
Behind the Barcode http://www.behindthebarcode.org.au/
Good on You http://goodonyou.org.au/