In Bangladesh on April 24th 2013, the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed. 1134 people were killed, over half of whom were women, and over 2500 more people were injured. The day before the collapse, workers had reported cracks in the building.
We need a more transparent fashion industry. An industry which is fairer to all its workers, not just those at the top of the chain. An industry that pays a living wage, meets (and exceeds) standards for working conditions, and treats its workers like people, not numbers.
Fashion Revolution Day, held on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, demands a radical change to the way our clothes are sourced, produced, and purchased, through asking one simple question: who made my clothes?
Because the fact is, we no longer know who makes our clothes. And if we don't know who makes them, then we don't know their true cost.
But it's difficult for consumers to actually find this information out. At Godiva, we pride ourselves on our strong relationships with our designers. For the majority of the clothing and accessories we stock, we can tell you precisely who made it and where. However, even we have to admit that with some of our larger brands who manufacture overseas... we don't know exactly where the clothing we stock comes from.
And sometimes, not even the brand knows where their clothing is made. The recent Behind the Barcode Fashion Report found that 48% of major brands hadn't traced the factories where their garments were made and, shockingly, 85% of companies aren't paying their garment workers enough to meet their basic needs.
How can this happen?
It's been estimated that adding just 25p onto the cost of a Bangladesh-made garment would give workers a living wage and pay for factories to meet fire and building safety standards. 25p! What else can you buy for 25p these days?
But large brands and retailers want to squeeze prices as low as they possibly can to increase profits. When they're already using lower-quality fabrics and the cheapest construction methods they're not willing to add costs to ensure a happy, safe workforce. Instead, it's that workforce that ends up paying the price through lower wages, dangerous working conditions and long, long working days without holidays.
Fast, good, or cheap: pick two. There's truth in that saying.
But what's the answer?
Don't settle for mediocre. Spend your money, however much you're able, on things that you love that will last forever. Having two everyday dresses that fit well, make you feel good and will last for years is better than having twenty cheap ones that look okay and will be stuffed, unloved, in the bottom of your wardrobe after a season.
Don't spend more money: just buy fewer things. Shop around for ethical brands. Shop second-hand and vintage. Buy with intention.