Life is cheap in some parts of the world (correction, most part) owing to our misguided priorities and the rampant sense of callousness about basic issues like human safety, security and ethics. And when fashion is embroiled in a contentious debate on ethics, morality, workers’ safety and a ‘name behind every garment’, we know that there is much more than meets the eye because it literally concerns a persons life and death.
Are we stretching the issue a bit too far? Not quite, because we’re still struggling to get answers even as we approach the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 24 April 2013 that killed 1,133 garment workers while injuring over 2,500 people.
Fashion Revolution Day will be held on April 24 2014 to mark the anniversary of this heart-wrenching disaster to get us to think about the people who made the clothes we adorn, and under what circumstances. It provokes us to think whether or not our clothes could be a deathbed for millions of innocent workers, globally.
Numbers have a penchant for fascinating us, so let’s discuss some numbers.
·20,000 yearly deaths take place due to pesticide poisoning, many of which happen in cotton agriculture of developing nations.
· Close to 100 million rural homes are involved in the production of cotton spread across 70 nations.
·Around 66% of this cotton is produced in developing countries. What this means is that cotton production is the only source of livelihood for most cotton farmers.
· Many cotton farmers survive on less than USD 2 a day and are NOT able to recover the cost of production.
·The conversion of raw material into clothes involves the use of around 8,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic for workers.
· Retail manufacturing industry is the world’s second most polluting industry.
·According to the WRC (Workers Rights Consortium), it would take USD 3 billion over a period of years to implement decent working standards in Bangladesh’s 4,500-odd factories.
·2 out of 3 fashion entities do not engage their consumers on sustainability.
· As per a poll conducted for the UK-based YouGov/Global Poverty Project, 74% responded said that they could consider paying an extra 5% for their clothes if they were guaranteed that workers were working in decent conditions.
The risks continue
In the end, its more about human lives than it is about numbers. The existing fashion supply chain produces more questions than answers primarily due to its inchoateness on human safety.
Also, fashion leaders are too smart to realise the pitfalls of embracing the exploitation-themed emblem of “Made in Bangladesh”.
It’s not about the risks in one country (Bangladesh, in this case) because factories can be easily moved to another low-wage country where the enforcement record of worker safety conditions is as dubious, if not worse.
Whether it’s India, Cambodia, Vietnam, North Korea or Dubai, a lot of questions remain unanswered when it comes to workers’ empowerment and safety. Deaths happen with alarming regularity and typically go unnoticed because they do not make exciting news.
And we’re not even talking about the disastrous consequences of job losses for millions of Bangladeshi garment workers and machinists if and when factories are shifted elsewhere.
On Fashion revolution day, we are asking you to look at your labels and ask questions to where were these clothes made? Start the conversation with the brands on social media and ask them, what rights do you give the person who made my clothes? Take a picture of the garment with your question or even do 3 sec video and send to them.
As consumers, you hold the most power, to make a powerful impact to eradicate the Modern day slave industry. The power literally is in your hands, go on Facebook, Twitter or email them, and even ask for the name behind your garment.
Ethical fashion was born to give back basic human rights to these modern day slaves, of the modern fashion industry, and the freedom to live. How many more must give their sweat, blood, and tears so that everyone else gets a bargain except them. We know life is unfair, but is it fair that labels have more rights than these humans do. Time for change, time to ask our label owners questions, and time for open dialogue.