Now normally I just cover silly little things, bits of fashion history, favorite eye makeup looks, really talented women (and men). This normally isn't a serious blog...I don't have the head or the patience to cover the heavy stuff seven days a week. BUT I do think it's VERY VERY important for us to reflect on what's happened in Bangladesh in garment factory that belongs to one of the biggest money makers in fast fashion...and how for the sake of making money, most likely paying their employees peanuts and forcing them to work even under strenuous conditions which normally goes hand-in-hand with these kinds of billion-dollar companies supplying what we think is a "really good deal" on a sweater or a coat, have neglected humanity for a fast buck (too many of these fast bucks) and safety and now at least 124 people are dead. Just so people in the States and some of the other countries they supply to can go buy some dumb tops or jeans.
If you haven't already heard, the story is here...on the New York Times site. But in a nutshell, a fire broke out in a factory owned by Tazreen Fashions.
Here is an excerpt from the above story:
The weekend fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory ranks as one of Bangladesh’s worst industrial accidents. Witnesses described a desperate scene, as workers leapt from the upper floors of the factory, trying to land on nearby rooftops and escape the smoke and flames. Others suffocated inside the factory building, as the blaze apparently rendered stairwells impassable.Kalpona Akter, a Bangladeshi labor leader, said she toured the factory after the fire was extinguished and found labels for a variety of global retailers, including Faded Glory, a brand she said was manufactured for Walmart. Ms. Akter said she also found labels for brands sold at leading European retailers.“These international, Western brands have a lot of responsibility for these fire issues,” said Ms. Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. “In this factory, there was a pile of fabrics and yarn stored on the ground floor that caught fire. Workers couldn’t evacuate through the stairs. What does this say about compliance?”Bangladesh is a garment powerhouse, with more than $18 billion a year in exports, ranking second behind China. More than three million workers are employed in the country’s 4,500 garment factories, most of them women. The industry has become an essential engine for the domestic economy, and a critical source of foreign currency that helps the government pay for imported oil.
and here is a bit more:
The Clean Clothes Campaign, a European group that opposes sweatshops, said that more than 500 Bangladeshi laborers had died in factory fires since 2006. In 2010, 29 workers died from a fire inside a Bangladeshi factory making clothing for Tommy Hilfiger.
If you recall, during the Olympics, Tommy Hilfiger came under immense fire after it was made public that the US Olympic team's uniforms were made in China. Tsk Tsk.
What's even more interesting is the time of year this is all coming to light. You know right now millions of people are frenetically going through tables piled with cheap tops, pants, sweaters, socks, etc that most stores lay out during the holiday season. They ramp up the deals and push the crappy clothes onto customers. And customers, like sheep, flock from one sale to another. Never once looking at the label, understanding why or how these garments run so inexpensively, or who is suffering to produce these pieces. One promising thing about Internet shopping is that customers can take time to read about the clothes. They aren't subject to high frenzied shopping that happens in malls and big store chains like Walmart (who always ends up being the villain in most garment issues...and other issues, too). I have to say that as much as I dislike brands like American Apparel, at least we know it's made right here. At least we know these factories are protected. Another thing to consider is that you might end up paying more for a garment at a better shop that doesn't deal with sweatshops in other countries, but at least you know what you're paying for. You're not contributing to the ill abuse of innocent workers at the hands of big fat money makers who could care less about them as long as the money comes in.
Really, it's early enough. I know I myself don't shop very much for clothing. I get some pieces here and there. But I'm not innocent of buying or featuring products made in factories like the one that burned down in Bangladesh. But at least I'm trying. It's early enough that everyone can take a couple more minutes and either buy from sites like Etsy, go to small designer shops that only house pieces made by smaller designers where you know they are making the items on a smaller scale or shop vintage, which is what I tend to do.
I feel so sorry for those poor workers who tried to leave but were met by either managers who told them to ignore the fire alarms and get back to work or an emergency exist door that was locked on the outside. It's almost 2013, people. Things have got to change.