Viva la revolucion – the Fashion Revolution, that is

Today, April 24, 2014, is the first anniversary of the factory collapse in Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and today, we’re sounding the call to revolution: a Fashion Revolution. It’s a peaceful one, but the revolt is real – and I mean that in every sense of the word. (The following story is somewhat fabricated by me based on information obtained from this article from PeopleTree, a UK based brand of sustainable, fair trade style. Selina is a real victim of the collapse.  I tried to envision what it must have been like for her as a mother and worker when she knew there were risks to her continuing to work in Rana Plaza.)

April 23, 2013

I wonder what’s next? The factory fire that killed over 100 just months ago and now I’m very concerned about cracks in the wall at my job in the Rana Plaza Factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Inspection teams discovered cracks (that we’ve all known were there) in the structure of Rana Plaza today. Shops and a bank branch on the lower floors immediately closed. But the owners of the garment factories on the upper floors ordered employees to work

My name is Selina. I have worked long enough in the Rana factory to have saved 20,000 Bangladeshi taka (roughly $250). It has taken a long while to accumulate that money. I am hopeful that it would help provide for my son, Bizroy, in the event that something happens to me. It is our job as his parents to ensure his future is bright, but I know that 20,000 taka will not go very far. It is all we have, so I pray that it will suffice.

The majority of garment workers in Bangladesh earn little more than the minimum wage, set at 3,000 taka a month (approximately $38), far below what is considered a living wage, calculated at 5,000 taka a month (approximately $64), which would be the minimum required to provide a family with shelter, food and education.  – www.waronwant.org

My husband and I both work at the factory making garments for people we’ll never know. There must be a lot of people, with an even bigger need for clothing, judging by the sheer number of pieces we sew and assemble. Our lives have been hard, but no harder than that of those around us. At least we have each other, our son, and our extended family, and I’m not forced to sell my body to provide for our family.

As well as earning a pittance, Bangladeshi factory workers face appalling conditions. Many are forced to work 14-16 hours a day seven days a week, with some workers finishing at 3am only to start again the same morning at 7.30am. On top of this, workers face unsafe, cramped and hazardous conditions which often lead to work injuries and factory fires. – www.waronwant.org

I have been worried about the crack in the building we work in. It’s quite large and many workers have shared their worry about it as well. Some have even declined to work in protest. But what can we do… We don’t work? We do not get paid. We don’t get paid? We do not eat. There is no one with surplus to offer help. We are all in the same boat.

There are more than 4,800 factories and 3.5 million people employed in the Bangladeshi garment industry, producing cheap clothes under appalling working conditions for major UK and international brands. Women account for 85% of the textile work force and are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and abuse. The garment industry accounts for 80% of Bangladesh’s export revenue and is the fourth largest exporter of garments in the world. – www.waronwant.org

Sometimes I wish I could put a note in the shirts I sew. That somehow all the people who wear them could know I made their shirt. That I could tell them about my son. That I could tell them what my life is like and I wish to know what their life is like. Their clothing is quite different from ours, I bet their lives are too. Maybe some day these people will know. Maybe they will have a window into this factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Maybe they will see that crack in the wall and fix it…


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source: A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

On April 24, 2013, that large crack in the wall of the factory in Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, finally yielded to the pressure and collapsed, claiming the lives of 1,133 workers. Selina was trapped for 4 days in the rubble and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital shortly after her rescue. Her son, Bizroy, is now a double orphan, meaning that both parents have died. His father also passed away in the factory collapse, although even with DNA testing, authorities were never able to identify his remains. Bizroy is now being raised by his grandmother, and that 20,000 taka is helping provide for him. He is still in school, although at a cheaper one. His grandmother is managing with the help of her sister and daughters.

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Bizroy with his grandmother, Razi, holding photos of his mother and father. Source: Miki Alcalde/PeopleTree

And here we are today, one year after so many lost their lives so we can enjoy a closet full of inexpensive, practically disposable, clothes. I’m as guilty as the next person. Old habits die hard and I’ve found myself perusing racks of clothing that I am certain were not made ethically. (how can you know?) But today serves as a reminder: The clothing in my closet is not worth dying for. I wouldn’t risk my life for it, so I shouldn’t expect anyone else to, at any point up the supply chain, either. We’re like addicts only instead of looking for our fix to inject, we’re looking for a fast fix to wear. My challenge to you, and for myself, is to question “WHO made our clothes?” and to strive to stop the cycle because we can:

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And today, join us in wearing your shirt #insideout in raising awareness and encouraging more questions. Take a selfie and tag the company who made your clothes with the question “Who makes our clothes?” and tag @fash_rev too. Post to twitter, Instagram, etc. Let’s start a revolution for accountability and ethical and clean supply chain management. No one should die so we can have cheap, landfill clothes.

whomadeyourclothes

The window has been opened, friends. We’ve seen the cost of our fast fashion fix. Our demand for more, but cheaper is doing no one and no thing any good.

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¡Viva la revolucion!

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