Fair Trade or When Cheap Fashion Costs Too Much

Worker at the Rana Plaza factory, lucky to be found and pulled out from the ruins three days after the collapse of the building. Image source:ibtimes.co.uk

We all know about human rights, we all agree that human rights must be respected and protected, only with sadness do we look at our past, built on such phenomena of social injustice as slavery. We all agree that children should work and the elderly should have a choice not to work. We all agree that work for hire must be paid for, whereas working conditions should not do any harm or be in any other way dangerous to the health of a worker. However, in the West there are tens of thousands purchases made (clothes, accessories, and shoes included) that were made by anonymous hands of the people whose human rights are practically non-existant to their employers.

In 24th April 2013 in Daka, Bangladesh, a catastrophe occured, taking 1135 lives and leaving 2500 people injured, after one of the commercial multi-storey buildings, called Rana Plaza, with fabrics producing garments for the giants of West fashion industry, collapsed. At the time, Bangladesh has already become one of the most popular places in the Asian region for quickly erecting factory buildings and getting cheap local workforce for the fashion industry. In the aforementioned building for additional storeys were illegally added to open working factories for such well-known fashion brands as Benetton, Mango, Primark, Walmart, and Monsoon Accessorize. This tragedy took and broke many lives, but it also drew the whole world’s attention to the actual working conditions of the workers in factories, producing cheap and fast fashion items shipped to the West.

Rana Plaza Tragedy

Rana Plaza building after its collapse on 24th April 2013. Image source: ibtimes.co.uk

Modern Slavery and Rana Plaza Tragedy

Rana Plaza building after its collapse on 24th April, 2013. Image source: tuoitrenews.vn

The day before the Rana Plaza collapsed, the entire building was evacuated due to the cracks in the walls that raised serious concerns. The shops and a bank, situated in the lower storeys of the building, were left empty the next morning as well. However, the factory workers were told to come back to work, no matter the obvious threats to their safety. Their managers threatened the workers that if they don’t come back to work, they don’t get paid for the whole month. This desperate move is thought to be directly connected to the clients’ last-minute changes in the garment designs, that left the producers with extremely little time to finish the order. Such and similar changes and short deadlines are the everyday realities of the Western fast fashion industry and the main pretexts for workers exploitation. That morning, most of the factory workers came back to their working place, frightened to lose the money they’ve already earned or even the work pace itself, clueless of their horrific fate in just a short while.

Modern Slavery Primark

Protest in London near the central Primark retail shop after Rana Plaza collapse. Image source: TheStyleCon

This is only one of the more widely-heard examples of what is really happening in the fashion industry and what are we “voting” with our money for every time we’re buying mass production apparel, produced in factories in the uncontrolled regions of the developing world. When we buy our clothes, we usually consider the style, more and more often – their composition, always – their price. however, we rarely think about the working and living conditions of the ones who made those clothes, the aspect which is often reflected in the final price of the garment. Try not to buy your clothes from the mass production brands that propagate fast and cheap fashion. The brands that are less known to the masses, especially the ones that promote the sustainable fashion business, are usually the ones that produce their garments in the highly supervised factories. Those are often small family or village manufactories, which are monitored by the clients themselves, paying regular visits to evaluate and constantly improve the working conditions.

Psylo Fashion manufactory in Bali island

Fair Trade certificate is probably the clearest indication that the brand that owns it is treating its producers and other workers fairly. however, for the smaller companies such well-known although a rather expensive certificate that requires especially high standards is often unaffordable. Also, it’s also more popular in food industries than in fashion industry, so it should the lack of this certificate should be evaluated with caution. The brands that we’re introducing to you in our shop don’t have fair-trade certificates under their belt, although they are all ambassadors of the ethical ways of doing business, first and foremost taking good care of their producers. Their garments are made in small factories, which are easier to supervise. All of the brands can assure you that the producers work under healthy conditions, they have social security, and they get fair wages, enough to lead normal and dignified lives in their regions.

Siesta Bags - Human Working Conditions

Photos from Siesta Crafts manufactory in Nepal

We want that every single item in our shop would invite you to dive into that strange feeling when you can rest assured that it did no harm or as little harm as possible to the environment and that no person and no animal suffered in the making of it. We aim at assembling a collection, which would accompany your exceptional and long-lasting style, different from the mass fashion trends that change in crazy fast speed. We want you to wear our clothes and enjoy our accessories “happily ever after” instead of chasing the temporary trends and buying low-quality, paper-like clothes so cheap, that the only things the producers are left with are poor pennies and even poorer recourses of health and dignity. We want you to be conscious and caring not only for nature but also for each other. And it doesn’t really matter if you care for the ones you know or the ones that live in another continent – we are all deserving of as good a life as possible.

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