Tag Archives | Rana Plaza

5 Tips For Making Your Fast Fashion Last

The 3rd anniversary of Rana Plaza was yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about it so much.

How three years ago yesterday, I was searching through Google trying to find out if one of the vendors was one of the companies we worked with. The photos of the fabric being used as a slide to safety (so, um, health and safety definitely wasn’t tip top there, but then again, they sent people to work when there was a crack in the foundation), all the digging, the loss, the news that the owner had left the country (but then was found). Thinking about how complicit we are to fast fashion. How we are the problem. How we need more more more.

Case in point, I made a run to Target yesterday and bought a cute dress, as I don’t have many work clothes to wear in the spring. I forgot all about the anniversary in the face of a cheap dress. I am, we are, you are part of the problem because we are bombarded with shiny things to buy for cheap all the time.

And with all these thoughts, and knowing that I am part of the problem, I came up with a short list of things you can do to be a smart user of fast fashion:

  1. Think twice about buying bold patterns. They will quickly out of style vs. plainer clothes and will more likely worn less often and for a shorter period of time. The whole ‘do you have three items in your wardrobe that will go with that?’ adage definitely applies here. Want more pops of color? Try buying handmade jewelry that you can mix and match. 
  2. Learn to mend. If your clothes are cheap, they’re going to rip, tear, and break. Therefore, learn to mend them so that they will last. A quick trip to YouTube will teach you what to do. And all darning doesn’t have to look the same, as evidenced here via Tom of Holland. If you’re going to buy that cheap dress, commit to the damn dress. 
  3. Try thrifting. Think thrifting isn’t cool? Check out how much Stasia behind Stasia’s Style School rocks her thrifted clothes! She also gives tips on how to best rock them!
  4. Wash your clothes correctly. If you’re going to own fast fashion, at least treat it with some respect. Someone made that item, so take care of it. Learn how to best take care of your wardrobe.
  5. Know that things with beads and buttons are probably done by hand. Then ask yourself, what would I charge if I made this? (It’s probably more than that $10 price tag.) Some things can’t be made by machine and are done by subcontractors.

On that last point, in over four years at a workers’ right organization reading reports from some of the world’s top fast fashion retailers, not once did I come across child workers in their factories. In agriculture? Yes! But not in the places who make the clothes you’re wearing.

However, things get murkier when you look beyond the factory down the supply chain. Things become unregulated. Sadly, for most big name companies, their supply chains are still largely a mystery! This is a HUGE problem. And an effin’ mess.

So, if factories didn’t have children working in them, what was going on? The saddest thing was that factories would work to get their hours within a reasonable minimum and people would quit because they couldn’t afford to work there anymore without working 6o hours a week or more. They would get jobs at factories that had overtime because they needed it. They literally were cogs in the fast fashion system.

And what’s more, in cultures like China, conventional wisdom said that worker was just as fresh the 12th hour on the job as the 1st. From the supervisors to the workers, often people didn’t know the health effects of overtime.

But these are unsexy things. And not as exciting to get up in arms about. So they persist.

And we can campaign our little hearts out. However, what most people don’t get is that when it comes to fast fashion, cheap labor is what these factories are built on. They are counting on going under the radar. They are preparing for that audit visit. They make money based on the backs of workers without those razor-thin margins,

So campaign. But remember, these things take MONTHS to YEARS to fix because it’s so systemic. They are counting on you forgetting. They are counting on you to get distracted. They are counting on you to move on. Because that’s what we do best. But if you’re committed to the long haul, you just made make some magic happen.

Fashion Revolution Day + Notes from the Labor Industry

https://instagram.com/p/13Rr8sK51J/?taken-by=craftivista

For over 4 years, I worked in the labor industry, editing auditor’s reports of factories (mainly) overseas. Having no previous background in the industry, I first found it boring and initially just used the time to work on my editing skills, as I worked with reports written by people from all different nationalities and linguistic backgrounds. I enjoyed how reports came to us as somewhat of a puzzle that needed to be put back together in order for the public to be able to read them easily.

But then, I became fascinated by the contents of the reports themselves, not just their grammatical components. I learned that in some countries people had more days off for the death of their father than for the death of their mother (or even their own wedding). That in many countries both workers and managers firmly believe that workers perform their duties just as well on the 4th hour of their shifts as they do in the 18th hour. And that often, if a factory changed its working hours to within a 48-hour work week (in order to satisfy our organizational benchmarks), many workers would quit and go find jobs in a factory offering a 60-hour work week because they couldn’t earn enough money at the first factory.

Some of the findings were surprising, as in some countries women could take sick days off for having their periods. And some canteens in one country catered to the local food preferences of their migrant workers from others. And that even though it’s often used in journalism as the biggest problem in factories, child labor was not actually found very often in the apparel and footwear factories that we worked with.

There were sometimes also ghastly findings, like rodent-infested factory canteens and live wires in dormitories and lung problems due to the inhalation of dust or tiny microscopic bits of fabric. My least favorite thing of all to find in these reports, however, was that sometimes factory doors were kept locked during the day with chains and that fire escapes were either non-existent or too rickety to hold many people.

Two years ago today, the Rana Plaza building collapsed. I remember sitting at my desk researching articles trying to find out if any of the companies we worked with were involved, looking at the photos online and seeing people being rescued by sliding down slips of fabric (could you imagine that being the standard and means of safety in your place of employment?), the whole while seeing the death toll rising.

I’m no longer at that job, but I am thankful for the world it exposed me to. A world that most people don’t get to look into or even think about on a daily basis. A look into factories where people are making what we wear on our bodies and our feet. A look at how factories both improved and worsened people’s lives, depending on how they were run. A daily reminder that somewhere, someone had a literal hand in making my clothes.

So, today, on this 2nd anniversary, articles are being written, and thanks to the efforts of organizations like Fashion Revolution, people are taking photos of themselves with the labels of the clothes they are wearing. You can check out the #fashrev hashtag on Instagram here. People are talking about what happened, and that’s why I started craftivism in the first place, to open up dialogue between people about subjects that may be seen as difficult.

You can take photos of your labels, wear your clothes inside out, take note of our problems with consumption today. But hopefully that doesn’t mean you’ll forget about it tomorrow, because somewhere someone is making your clothes, your shoes, your carpets. And by remembering that when we make purchases, hopefully we can buy more clothes from producers who are auditing their factories (there are several different ways to do that, some better than others, but that’s not really an issue for this post); treating their workers better (you can check out initiatives like Labour Behind the Label to see how different companies are doing); and learn to make our own clothes (on that front, I always hear raves about Cal Patch’s video classes!)

By making someone else’s day-to-day work part of our day-to-day awareness, that doesn’t mean we have to totally change all our habits right now. It means we can start small by mending old clothes that have holes in them instead of throwing them away (check out Tom of Holland’s rad Visible Mending Programme!); checking the labels in our clothes and become aware of where they come from (hint: they don’t all come from China); and we can think about whether or not we really need that new top. Small changes and decisions lead to even bigger ones over time, the trick is to bring them into your own personal awareness.

But to me, this day will always be about this image below that was captured 2 years ago. His face is reminiscent of hundreds of photos I have seen over the years of anonymous workers in factories. Yet their embrace despite disaster is something that we all can recognize as the basis of humanity, as we all search love and comfort and each other in times of need. This photo reminds me of why it’s important to remember where my clothes came from, because after all, the people that made them, they are just like me.

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