Like most people, I was devastated to hear about the tragic factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which left over 400 people dead. As diggers continue to pick through the rubble, rescuers have all but abandoned efforts to find survivors in the wreckage. And all over what? £10 jeans.
The factory supplied goods to a number of fast fashion retailers, including Primark, J.C. Penney and allegedly, Wal-Mart. And where is the outrage? Where are the crowds of protesters lobbying for better oversight of apparel production? Apparently, we can sacrifice a few human lives for a cheap pair of sunglasses.
This is hardly the first time we've heard of such grave conditions at a fast fashion factory. It's time we break our addiction to cheap, throwaway styles and invest in certified Fair Trade organizations and independent designers and brands that are committed to maintaining a clean supply chain.
In the age of the Internet, it is easier than ever to find independent and Fair Trade brands to support. We have an array of shopping options at our fingertips - take People Tree, for example, a retailer that works closely with fifty Fair Trade organizations and producers around the globe to maintain a socially and environmentally sound supply chain (it also counts Sienna Miller, Emma Watson and Jude Law among its celebrity fans).
Spanish accessory brand LACAMBRA's products have garnered praise from Cool Hunting and WIRED's Gadget Lab, but they also deserve praise for their clean supply chain. Founders and designers Cristina Alvarez Lacambra and Ruben Gomez are committed to producing entirely in Spain and work closely with experienced leather craftsmen there. Cristina and Ruben have only high praise for these artisans, whom they visit a few times a week.
I also admire the work of a wonderful organisation called TRAID, which among other projects, funds campaigns to improve worker's rights and factory safety in Bangladesh and China. TRAID's collaboration with women's trade union SEWA resulted in the establishment of Embroidery Centres that help women connect directly with suppliers to Western high street shops instead of finding work through middlemen, doubling the incomes of participating women.
Of course, this is exactly why my co-founder and I were inspired to launch Boticca, a curated marketplace selling jewellery, bags and accessories by independent designers and brands all over the world. We vet our designers before they come on board to ensure that all designers and brands are small and independent. We value the creativity and skill of our designers and artisans and believe they should receive adequate compensation for their wonderful work. That's why we charge only a 30-35% commission on the retail price of goods sold through us as opposed to the 50-70% our brands and suppliers are used to elsewhere.
If our independent designers are able to earn a living producing creative, high-quality items in safe work environments, bigger companies with huge profit margins should be able to do so, too. But they've proven again and again that they just aren't interested in changing, no matter how many lives are lost to their practices. The only way to ensure you support safe and fair labour practices is to champion Fair Trade and independent brands. I make sure I support these brands - won't you join me?
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