So how much have you been thinking about the factory collapse in Bangladesh that happened in April? I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I was pleased to see this excellent cover story on this in last Saturday’s edition of the Vancouver Sun; grateful that media is still bringing attention to the plight of workers in the Bangladeshi garment industry and answering some of my questions about accountability of their employers.
One commenter on my blog about the collapse encouraged me to read Overdressed: the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion by Elizabeth Cline. I promptly got it out of the library and read it in a week. It is well written, describing the evolution of the garment industry in America. (Most of which could likely be said for Canada, since we are so heavily influenced by our neighbours to the south.) What I also appreciated was that the book was also her own personal journey of discovery and change: she was a cheap fashion addict but is now in “recovery” and is even learning to sew her own clothing. I highly recommend this book; it confirmed for me that my commitment to purchasing thrifted clothing is good. It also made me think more about consumerism again.
What I didn’t quite agree with, however, was the main thrust of her book: to bring garment manufacturing back to America. I am not opposed to this per se, I think that there is definitely a place for well-made clothing to be created in North America. But I also believe that there is a need for consumers like us to put pressure on companies to ensure that all their employees, whether they live in Canada, the U.S., Vietnam, China, India, Bangladesh or elsewhere, are paid a living wage, can work in safety and be treated with dignity.
So I am thinking about a few different ways to take action. I am a letter-writer so I am going to write letters to the companies whose clothing I like to wear. I am going to thank those whose websites indicate responsibility to their garment makers and let them know that I value this enough to pay more for clothing that is made in an ethical manner. I am also going to write to some of the companies whose clothing I wear and love but who do not provide any kind of information on their website regarding the places and conditions of their garment makers. One of these companies is Northern Reflections. I wear quite a bit of their clothing – most of purchased used but occasionally purchased new, on sale – and nearly all of it is made in developing countries like Bangladesh, India, Vietnam and China.
What are you doing in response to the Bangladesh garment factory collapse? Would you be willing to pay more for clothing that was ethically produced?