As an op shopping mother of four children, I've always prided myself on this way of buying clothes ethically - recycling/reusing etc. It is one step (at least) removed from buying directly from the retailer, and hence I conveniently don't often worry about where or how the clothes are made. But like most parents with a stretched hip pocket, I too can be a sucker for the retail catalogues that pour through my letterbox, advertising cheap kids clothing.
But as parents trying to provide for our children the best way we can, we shouldn't have to manufacture empathy for parents in other countries trying to do the very same thing. Are we happy to accept mothers and children working in dangerous and exploitative conditions such as those found in Bangladesh, just so we can pay $8 for a tee-shirt or $6 for some track pants? We need to accept our role in this. Being cash-strapped or time poor isn't a good enough reason when you think about the working lives and death tolls attached...
|Photo of Arch, taken by M Dudley, 2013|
The Bangladesh tragedy is the world's biggest disaster regarding the clothing manufacturing industry (going back to the abuse of children and workers in the industrial revolution) and it is a tragedy that it took this to force retailers and manufacturers to account for how their clothes are made.
And yet some of Australia's major clothing retailers have, even now, refused to disclose details about how and where their clothes are made. More reprehensibly, they've refused to sign an international Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which aims to improve health and safety conditions for workers in that country.
I urge you to express your concern to these companies (as of writing, Target, Big W, KMart and Cotton On have been mentioned) - any way you can. I'm writing to all of them (check out my letter under Pages on the side bar - feel free to use it as a template), and I'll let you know what responses I get.
I recently recommended a great teen fashion novel by Sophia Bennett (Threads), which dealt with the issue of African child soldiers in a really sensitive and great way. The second book in the series Beads, Boys and Bangles is also fantastic, and deals with issues of ethically-made clothing, and the tyranny of the sweat shop manufacturing industry. This series is highly entertaining, with a social conscience and a great way to introduce your tweens to areas of social responsibility in the (often vacuous) world of fashion.
Will you consider changing where you shop to make a difference?
How do we find out if the clothes we are buying have been ethically made? Can we believe what we're told by the big companies?
I hope these issues don't go away in a hurry. The pain of the Bangladeshy people affected by the factory collapse will last a lifetime, so change is the least we can do..