As the thin piece of attire some Muslim women choose to cover their faces with (as part of religious principal) once again becomes a point of discussion here in Britain, it is today an important day to think about clothing. Clothing from inside your cupboards and on your back, do we know where our clothes come from and as to what implications they have to people all over the world? Or in Orsola De Castro's words are we aware of the "thread" our purchases are leaving behind, are we following the trail?
Six months on from the biggest industrial disaster in modern times, little has changed in our shopping habits and little has been done to make sure the Rana Plaza Factory collapse doesn't happen again. It was less than two weeks ago that there was a factory fire in the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, a fire in which there were nine fatalities and at least a further fifty injured. Fire fighters shaken and unable to recover all of the bodies, one fireman said that "the bodies were charred beyond recognition" those killed are thought to have been working overtime. Overtime we all saw exposed as often un-accounted for and unpaid. Documentaries highlighted the treatment of garment workers in countries such as Bangladesh and the consequences that can occur.
Documentaries, press conferences and that so very famous accord (the one which we are still waiting for ASDA and GAP to sign, have kept the spotlight on the consequences that can occur as a result of fast fashion. I went to a screening of 'The Machinists' a documentary featuring garment workers during their day to day dealings. A great piece and one I thoroughly enjoyed watching (the one part of my evening I actually enjoyed). After the documentary a discussion ensued, what followed, I guess should have been expected. The discussion held at the 'Cholo Kheli' in hipster rich east London was chaired by the Bangladeshi high commissioners wife and ranged from dismissing unfair pay and treatment as a minimal issue, the shunning of a question from the audience asking about child labor, to one of the organizers responding to my question on what the Bangladeshi government were doing with a loud "let's leave politics out of this". Politics is exactly this, it is activism, it is fighting for a cause, it is implementing change and getting others to follow this lead. I'm not sure as to how you can except to discuss fashion and factory workers in Bangladesh excluding politics.
Today is the day on which six months ago people, mainly women who work as factory workers were told they could not leave a building which was on the verge of crumbling, a building every other company evacuated their staff from and one unfit to even house garment making equipment an industry built on corrupt dealings within political circles. So sitting in a room at an event claiming to be held in light of these victims but so obviously oblivious to core matters makes me wonder in as to what the sole reason for many a campaign. The collapse wasn't an isolated incident in Bangladesh, weeks after water poisoning emerged, factory fires and Tanneries in Bangladesh which opens up a whole new level of conversation.
Many campaigners are able to do some great work away from the grounds of Bangladesh; eco-age, The Ethical Fashion Forum, designers such as People Tree and Reclaim to Wear are but a few campaigning for a better and more principled structure to support a more sustainable industry, an industry which takes into account the rights of workers and one which ensures all parties are held to account for their part, businesses, factory owners, governments both national and international.
A day to commemorate the victims of the Rana Plaza Factory collapse has been set for the anniversary next April, 'Fashion Revolution day' is a great idea and there have been interesting thoughts all around. At the Ethical Fashion Forums source summit earlier this year, I sat with many in the industry pushing the idea forward in order to work out how best to have an impact, just yesterday young charity Made in Europe had campaigners out on the streets of London to remind people of their social responsibility, this is the activism Fashion Revolution day hopes to inspire and its one we should be supporting whole heartedly, inspiring social responsibility towards victims of greed and corrupt dealings within the garments industry. But it's also important to remember campaigns for campaigns sake will not get anyone anywhere and as sad as it is to say it, it's often the case that the cause for which we set ourselves up for gets lost in the sack as we carry it through. Remember your intentions and as Stephen Covey might say, keep the end in mind and your eye on the goal.