Do you know who made your clothes?With the aim of improving the working conditions for fashion workers across the globe, the Fashion Revolution movement is urging consumers to ask their favourite brands “who made my clothes?”. The placards illustrate the need for transparency in the fashion industry to overcome poor working conditions and unethical practises throughout the supply chain.
In response, fashion brands with an ethical stance post pictures of workers holding placards saying “I made your clothes”.
The images are largely symbolic. Small brands producing garments in an artisan way may be able to post an image of the person who hand embroidered your dress. However, this one smiling face does not truly represent the reality in which there are usually lots of people involved in the making of each garment.
Why do we need transparency to achieve ethical practises in the industry?
Whilst many well-known brands have done a great job in auditing factories and putting demands on suppliers with regards to worker welfare, profit is still the main driver.
Most consumers want lower prices while retailers and factories want to grow their turnover and profits. Even with the best will in the world, compromises will have to be made in order to achieve both. The compromise is usually on the manufacturing side. Either through using cheaper materials, or through using factories or subcontractors that are less interested in worker welfare and pay minimum wages (which in most developing countries are far below the living wages).
The cost price of a garment includes VAT, retailers’ profit margin, freight, (duty), factory’s profit margin, fabric, labels, labour for cutting/sewing/steaming/packaging, yarn and labour in the fields/fibre manufacturers among other things. One can imagine that if the retail price of a t-shirt is £3 and includes all the above, then the individual workers involved in producing will by default be paid very little.
Through demanding supply chain transparency, we as consumers put pressure on our favourite brands to remove the unfair practices. Depending on the perspective, you could call it management by fear of media exposure or a desire to more align with the customers’ requests. Whichever way you look at it, the results are similar: improvements in working practises.
It is worth noting, that if a retailer decides not to publish the details of their suppliers, this doesn’t necessarily mean that something is untoward. In many cases it will be to protect their ‘trade secrets’ from competitors, which is a reasonable concern. What we can then demand is, that they at least have full visibility themselves.
Ethical fashion brands are founded on a wish to treat everyone on the supply chain well. This includes good working conditions, respecting the rights of the workers and paying them a living wage. Given these are the founding principles of the ethical brands and this is what they are passionate about, you can hopefully trust that they are already doing everything in their power to live up to their promises.
Ethical fashion is important for those of us who want a world where all humans (and animals) are treated fairly and have a good quality of life.
The ethical fashion brands are leading the way for the rest of the industry – especially the fast-fashion and discount brands – by raising the bar and setting a new norm.
We, VILDNIS, are proud to be a part of this movement!
CAPTION: Seamstresses in one of the factories making our products.