Before I started studying Fashion Buying and Merchandising, where my clothes were sourced and who made them, wasn’t something I particularly questioned. Yes, when there was an incident in the news or a programme about it, I would hear the stories but when I was buying the clothes, I never thought about what people had to go through for me to have the item. Unfortunately, I think this is the case with most consumers across most age groups; especially with my generation who want an outfit to wear once, pop it on Instagram and then it’s pushed to the back of the wardrobe. I have become very interested where my clothes are from so I am now buying less and looking into companies before hand.
This week, Dispatches, on channel 4 released a half an hour documentary about working conditions and the wages within the textile factories in the UK. Some staff were being paid as low as £3 an hour, which is £4.20 below our living wage. The programme really shocked me as it was big names using these factories (whether they directly hired them or not, the clothes were still made under these conditions), such as New Look, River Island, Boohoo and Missguided. I would not have expected a factory within the UK to be able to get away with this kind of treatment and if this can happen in our country, imagine what is happening in third world countries or China who are churning out more and more clothes by the day.
The problem with ethical trading and trying to ensure your clothes come from a good source, is that although most retailers are signed up to the Ethical Trade Initiative, we continue to hear about mistreatment within the factories they are using. Usually, the response of the retailers is that they did not directly hire the company in question and that it was sub-contracted but should retailers with that much power not be able to make an impact of these people’s lives for the better and protect them?
Yesterday afternoon, MP quizzed leading retail giants on human rights responsibilities. It was queried that, if the company have broken the contract by sub-contracting, why do you not cut and run? Mike Barry, from M&S, replied that it would be the easy option because the contractor will just carry on doing it to the next person, so it is better for the retailer to try and work with the contractor to protect the workforce in the future. – Report from Drapers.
Ethical trading is something that has become very interesting to me and I am aiming to try and make my generation a bit more aware of the impact of ‘fast fashion’.
– E x