I’ve been sitting on this tragic story for a while, because I haven’t been sure how to approach this on the blog. Firstly, I should express that I am disgusted about the way the garment workers are treated in countries like Bangladesh, and I’m also horrified that big companies allow this kind of thing to happen. I’ve heard that the factory owners knew the building was in poor shape, but that they knew it would be cheaper to pay off $1,200 per family of a deceased in the case of a collapse, then it would be to actually fix the building. If this is the value they place on human life, then I am ashamed to be a consumer of brands that operate like this.
There are articles circulating in the media about a new initiative that big brands are joining, which protects workers like this. Then there is also the backlash against the brands who aren’t signing this agreement. Though I do think it is incredibly important for there to be some way of monitoring the conditions of overseas garment factories, I also think an agreement will take a great deal of time to create, and I’m not surprised that companies are weary of agreeing to terms created in just a few weeks.
But there is a solution to this problem, action we can take right now, that will make a difference. It is simple: stop buying dirt cheap clothing. I am not suggesting we all exclusively buy luxury or local from here on (although that would be nice…), or we stop buying garments made in Bangladesh (people depend on the garment industry there to feed their families), but if we all take a stand and say “No, I don’t need a $12 pair of jeans, and yes, I can spend $30 on a t-shirt,” then we would be able to make a big difference.
Companies don’t have these practices in place because they want to exploit people, they do what they have to do to sell clothes. And if we go around demanding $4 t-shirts, then companies will find a way to provide them, at any expense.
I know this is easier said than done, in fact, just the other day I bought my son two t-shirts from Old Navy – and it felt wrong. I am a lot more conscious about these things now, and unlike most of us, my son actually did need some new clothes (well, new to him, and I couldn’t find the t-shirts second hand.) As for the rest of us, I am pretty sure that we could go the next five years without buying any new fashion items, and we’d still have clothes on our back. But we do still want to buy clothes and invest in fashion, right? I am suggesting we do this with a bit more thought. Buy things that aren’t dirt cheap. Buy things that will last longer. Buy smart. Buy less. Buy local. Buy items that will work well in your wardrobe and that you’ll be able to wear a lot. Not everyone has the resources to trade up, but most of us do.
I need the fashion industry – it is my job and it pays my bills, but the fashion industry doesn’t need to be about exploitation. Let’s not depend on the brands to take action on our behalf, take matters into your own hands and start buying smarter. I can guarantee you that if we demand clothing that is better made, at a higher price point, companies will provide them.
Read the 5 Reasons Why I Want to be a Minimalist.