It’s two years on from the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed 1134 people and injured hundreds were injured in Savar, Bangladesh 24 April 2013. According to reports the building was unsafe, and workers were threatened that they would lose their jobs if they didn’t come to work.
Tears in the Fabric is a heart wrenching documentary that follows the day in the life of a grandmother and her two grandsons, a year after the horrific incident. The boy’s parents’ were victims of the Rana Plaza incident. The documentary helps personalise the ethical fashion issue for me. Can I afford not to consider the livelihoods of those left behind in my consumer choices? I can’t.
I loves clothes. I love the self-expression that can come with a well put together outfit. I love how wearing my Etta Every Boxer Pant in Bright yellow makes me feel courageous. Consciously or unconsciously our clothes make a statement.
We didn’t have a lot of extra money growing up, although I never noticed. I grew up on hand me downs and lovingly made homemade clothes. I remember the delight I had when dad returned from Auckland with bags of hand-me-downs from my cousins. As a child I can remember the few things we bought new: those sparkly blue socks; the bright pink polkadot dress. I was proud when they had a NZ made logo on them. Mum was a great sewer and passed on a love for sewing to me. I’ve loved making and buying fun and high quality clothes ever since.
Eight years ago I watched a showing of the documentary China Blue. The Filmmaker Micha Peled took a Q and A session after the showing. His words still ring in my ears. Consumers can’t make the fashion industry more ethical by not buying China made, or by ensuring China follows ethical labour laws. Manufacturers could just move their operations elsewhere. The challenge is for consumers to ask brands about the ethical standards they follow in all stages of the garment’s construction. He encouraged the audience to email the head office of each brand they usually purchase and ask about their social responsibility, environmental policies and workers rights. I emailed my usual retailers and changed some of my purchasing habits as a result. My new buying rules meant buying from New Zealand or Australian designed and manufactured clothes, or the few retailers who were upfront about their ethical practice. Often I found that the local retail assistants didn’t have the answers about the ethical practice of brands. So buying from a new retailer meant more research and consideration. I either gave in to not making an ethical decision, or not buying.
Thanks to the work of Fashion Revolution it is becoming so much easier to ask the question. Only by creating and voicing a demand for more ethical production will we see change. Let’s start being more conscious in our consumption. Who made your clothes?