Attentive readers are seeing more and more catastrophes in Bangladesh involving garment manufacturers. Bangladesh is just one particularly prominent location in the garment production industry. China, India, Egypt and lesser known countries like Hungary are equally home to many substandard, dangerous and environmentally hazardous agricultural and industrial facilities related to garment production industry,
As consumers and designers, we really have to be aware that we are creating this situation when we constantly demand lower and lower prices for clothes, driving retailers, clothing companies and production houses to cut corners where they can and squeeze every penny out of the process.
In order to exist in the market place, the pressure is handed down until it effects the first and weakest link in the chain – the cutters and sewer who are barely surviving in substandard living conditions, without the least protection, working 10 hours a day and often 7 days a week to make the T shirts, sweaters, pants and coats sold by large and small brand names across the globe. According to Charles Kernaghan, director of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, the popular kids chain The Children’s Place sources from a factory located in the building. And the website for Ether Tex listed Walmart as one of its buyers.
According to the Solidarity Center, an AFL-CIO training office in Dhaka that tracks fire-related accidents, as of mid-April at least 41 have taken place in Bangladesh since the blaze at Tazreen, a facility in the capital that made garments for Walmart, Disney, Sears and others. On Wednesday, tragedy struck again: more than 80 people perished when an eight-story building housing garment factories collapsed, a day after some workers reported seeing cracks in the structure.
The alarming frequency of such incidents attests to systemic problems that still conspire to make the country’s garment industry one of the worst for workers. Poverty and overpopulation ensure that many will work for less than the national minimum wage of about 18 cents an hour, for employers liable to cut corners on safety to boost profit margins.
Yes, there are of course greedy business people in the process but any clothing company can visit their production resources and research the situation which they either don’t or even worse they don’t care of can’t care if they want to continue to provide cheap clothes for Western consumers.
As designers of children’s clothes have first-hand knowledge of this vicious cycle. Although as a company we are constantly under pressure to lower our prices, create special offers and be cheap, we resist. Our clothes are made in Bali.
We have an office in the production facility where workers earn an above average living wage, take off work for religious ceremonies and family celebrations and have a normal workday.
Our cotton fabric and our dyes are GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) which means that along every step of the process – from growing the cotton to finishing the fabric – fair labor practices are observed and controlled by the certifying agency.
Hopefully the negative news will wake consumers up and they will demand fair labor practices and full disclosure and the loss of lives will prevent future catastrophes. And by choosing certified organic production over cheaper prices I am sure more and more brands will move towards sustainable practices.