THE shocking images of conditions inside a UK factory where workers are paid just £3.50 an hour to make clothes for some of our favourite brands should be a wake-up call for the fashion industry.
This apparent modern slavery has no place in fashion. It has no place anywhere. It is often a breach of human rights. It is often illegal.
So it is understandable that many of us are questioning why this is happening – and, by extension, what our role is in this.
Has our desire for cheap and cheerful fashion created this sickening practice? Are we somehow to blame for insisting we will only pay as little as possible for everything?
Should we — as some smarmy “influencers” suggest — be boycotting anyone who sells cheap clothes?
The simple answer is: No
Of course, in an ideal world, we’d all be buying top quality, ethically sourced garments that last a lifetime.
But that’s just not going to happen. Most people just can’t afford to. And we like to keep up with trends while at the same time paying the bills. There is nothing wrong with that.
Our love of fashion keeps the economy going.
Fashion is the UK’s largest creative industry. It provides jobs for almost as many people as the financial sector and is one of the most female-dominated industries in the world.
Around 800,000 people work in the UK fashion industry and approximately 80 per cent of garment workers are women.
Livelihoods are at stake if we decide to boycott fashion brands because of their bad practices.
The answer is for fast fashion firms like Boohoo and Quiz to do the work and get their houses in order. This is on them.
And big firms like Boohoo — a business worth £2.9billion — are not without means. They have the resources to make changes.
They need to perform due diligence on who is making their clothes — they must forensically examine the whole supply chain, from contractors to sub-contractors and anyone else who has a hand in how this stuff comes to market.
Decent wages must be the norm. They must be transparent and tell us, the consumer, what they know.
This is not rocket science. It is already happening.
The Fashion Transparency Index 2020 ranks 250 of the biggest global fashion brands according to how much information they provide about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices and social and environmental impact.
Retailers are scored on their transparency across five key areas: Policy and commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment and remediation and spotlight issues.
H&M, one of the largest fashion retailers in the world, is currently top of The Fashion Transparency Index.
Stung by allegations that its clothes had been made by child labour in Myanmar — with some paid as little as 13p an hour — it last year built a new tracking system so consumers can find out where each garment is made.
Marks & Spencer also scored highly. It introduced an ethical trading programme including audits of its supply chain in the Nineties.
Eleven more brands in the Fashion Index revealed details of their processing facilities — where finishing, dyeing and laundering take place — in 2019 compared to 2018.
And ten brands disclosed their raw material suppliers in 2019, compared with just one in 2018.
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Of course this isn’t just a fast fashion problem. It is industry-wide.
What customers need from all brands is transparency, as this leads to accountability and ultimately change.
So if you do want to spend your hard-earned cash on fast fashion, only shop at places where you know they are doing their bit to ensure things are more ethically sourced.
Erhical makeover is long overdue
By Tracey Boles, Business Editor
AS much as I love new clothes, fast fashion has had its day.
Two brands have recently been at the centre of allegations that garments are being made or packed in dire working conditions in Leicester.
Boohoo has paid a heavy price for these claims, with more than a billion pounds wiped off the value of its shares.
Today, it suffered another big fall after a leading investor sold out on ethical grounds.
And rival Quiz was sucked into the growing storm. It has suspended a supplier after claims that a factory in Leicester offered a worker just £3 an hour to make its clothes.
Quiz admitted that the situation, which it is investigating, is “unacceptable”.
As online retailers specialising in casualwear, these companies were riding high after lockdown boosted sales. Following these allegations, the tide is turning against them.
It comes after lockdown prompted many of us to reassess our lives, with the desire to be greener high on the agenda.
A recent survey showed that more women were willing to make do and mend. That can’t be a bad thing.
A common reason that clothes are sent to landfill is a missing button, which is simply appalling.
Before buying a new dress or jacket, I now ask myself, ‘Am I going to wear this item for years?’
Fashion is a global industry worth more than £1trillion a year. It will clean itself up where necessary and adapt.
Boohoo and Quiz have been swift to terminate relationships with rogue suppliers. Elsewhere, there is much talk of “respons-ible” and “sustainable” fashion.
Don’t be surprised if the fast fashion pack gives itself a long overdue makeover. Hopefully it will be more than the latest fad.
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