24 April 2014

Who made your clothes?

Fashion Revolution Day is a commemoration of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 - it aims to raise awareness and catalyse change

"Who made your clothes?" is the basic question. The website prompts you to
-Be curious
-Find out
-Do something

It seems important to do "one small thing - today". I decided to Be Curious, and Find (something ... what?) Out.

First I asked google "where are marks and spencers clothes made" and got this answer -
Their clothes are manufactured by Dewhirst, whose many factories were moved to new plants in Indonesia and Morocco to protect margins after many challenges hit the textile and apparel industry.

The company's site has a page on "social compliance", including this information -
"We provide each worker with free nutritional meals and medical support. Via a community health clinic founded in conjunction with Marks & Spencer, we have pioneered projects to cut rates of tuberculosis and to reduce infant mortality through education and support for female employees."

So far so good. Same question about John Lewis ... Seems they are looking to bring back textile manufacture to the UK as part of their "made in the UK" campaign - aiming to increase sales of British-made products to 15% by next year.

(This move to "onshore manufacturing" is as much due to rising labour costs in the far east as to a change in consumer preference, though the clothing factory disaster must have gone some way to raise social awareness. One of the problems with bringing manufacturing back to the UK is a skills shortage... but Jaeger - a very British firm that has been manufacturing offshore since 2000 - too is planning to do so for some garments, moving most of the rest out of China to countries closer to home, such as Portugal and Tunisia.)

All very interesting ... as was the trawl through my collection of labels saved from recycled garments, finding ones with "Made in..." for the photo. The jeans I'm wearing today were made in the USA and the top was made in Austria ... but under what conditions?

Ethical shopping ... what a minefield ... the more you look into it, the fewer easy answers there are...


patty a. said...

Labels do tell quite a story. I have gotten in the habit of when I make a quilt from someone's clothing I save all the labels and applique them on to the quilt. I did this on one fellow's quilt and he was thrilled with this unexpected surprise. I would like to see more labels that say Made in the USA and for you Made in the UK.

KAM said...

Margaret, There was a great news report on NPR this morning regarding the textile disaster and the fact that many companies still refuse to sign on to the agreement to provide adequate and safe working conditions, and decent payment for work was truly sad to hear. Thank you for providing some great links and information that I will share with family, friends and in particular my local group of women for peace and justice - we are always supporting women's health, safety and education issues around the world. Kristin

Uta Lenk said...

This is an issue that keeps me on my toes all the time, too. I can't believe how many people still look for 'bargains' in clothing, and the speed of fashion changes. And although I want textiles industries to 'return' to consumer countries, I wonder, too: what chances to get any ind of other work are the women going to have when the textiles industry isn't there any more?