The fast fashion world is constantly evolving, and in many ways, in a positive direction. We hear a lot of talk these days about “sustainable” clothing and the importance of this for our over polluted and ever-warming planet. It’s almost become the new “trendy” across the fashion world to be sustainable, as consumers are waking up to the negative impact fast fashion has been having.
Manufacturers are scrambling to keep up with the times and while their new found focus on sustainability is, undoubtedly, incredibly important, the conversation and commitment often seems to stop at “sustainably made”. What about “ethically made”?
It’s easy to assume that because a company is producing more sustainable garments, they are also ethically made, meaning, no humans have been exploited along the production line. Painfully however, this isn’t always the case.
Are we really putting enough thought into who is it that makes our clothes, whether they’re sustainable or not? What conditions do these people work in? Are they treated fairly, and most importantly, humanely?
The Rana Plaza disaster serves as a painful reminder of the horrors that can happen when garment workers are put in dangerous and unimaginable conditions. If you’re thinking about how to start a clothing label which is ethical and avoids putting people in danger, we urge you to read on…
The Rana Plaza Disaster
On the 24th of April, 2014, tragedy struck Bangladesh. An eight-story commercial building named the Rana Plaza collapsed, killing 1,134 and injuring a further 2,500.
The lower floors of the building housed a shopping mall, and the floors above were garment factories. There were multiple floors added to the already poorly constructed building. The added weight undoubtedly caused the catastrophic collapse.
Workers were evacuated several hours before the disaster so “checks” could be carried out. Though garment workers had expressed their fears and concerns that there were cracks appearing in the walls, authorities did little. They were sent straight back to work shortly after.
What did the owner of the building state hours before the collapse?: “They were making a big deal and it wasn’t a crack [...] it was some plaster that fell off.”
After the collapse, he was caught trying to flee to India and sentenced to 3 years in prison for corruption.
Workers (who are from unimaginably poor backgrounds) were told that they had to continue working, often until past midnight, and if they didn’t then either their salaries would be cut or they’d completely lose their jobs. They were forced to work in a building that was about to crumble.
Some 24 hours after workers had voiced their fears, the Rana Plaza completely caved in, with the heavy additional weights of the machinery, workers, and infrastructure. Hundreds would have died instantly, and many were trapped alive for days, and in some cases, weeks in the rubble.
One survivor described her experience like a “grave with no air or light around me… just dead bodies.” This woman, like many others, had to have her hand and legs excruciatingly amputated in order to get out alive.
The horrors of the disaster left many shaken, but nowhere near enough. Though pledges were made from some large retailers, it seems many aren’t even aware of the disaster. Additionally, as these companies happened to be using the Rana Plaza for production of their clothes, we can only question the intentions behind their donations...
The Rana Plaza highlighted many things about how our clothes are made in the fast fashion world. Dangerous conditions. Unimaginably long hours. Very little pay. And the exploitation of children and adults.
Unfortunately, these problems are still all too present today, with a massive 200 million children making our clothes as we speak, and thousands upon thousands of dangerous sweatshops still in operation.
So what can we do to ensure that we aren’t implicit?
How to Start A Clothing
Line Or Shop Ethically?
These conditions and the atrocities mentioned above are almost unfathomable here in the West, but they are all too common in the countries where most of our garments are being made. That said, how do we make sure that we aren’t part of the problem?
If you’re a consumer, then make sure you do your research. Ensure that the company is transparent about who makes the clothes and in what conditions. If a company neglects to make that clear, then avoid them. If they aren’t transparent or something seems a little wishy washy, then trust your gut. Be mindful of Greenwashing.
If you have a clothing label or are thinking about how to start a clothing label, then think long and hard first about this: Who do you want making your clothes? Children/workers who are mistreated, underpaid, overworked and undervalued? Or workers who are happy and proud to make your clothes?
Deciding you want an ethical supply chain from start to finish is one thing. But how do you go about implementing this?
At Masala Threads, we offer a range of services to build an ethical and sustainable brand. We do all the hard work for you!
One of our most important offerings is the ethically made production of your garments. All our workers are in safe conditions, work a normal number of hours and are paid a fair salary! On top of that, many of the women who will produce your garments have been saved from a life of sex trafficking, and given a new lease of life.
Alongside ethical manufacturing, we also offer: sourcing, printing & dying, design, photoshoots and eco packaging. You can book a free discovery call to simply have a chat first and see what you might require.