It was Stewart’s birthday recently. Putting into practice what I am learning from this blog, his presents were conscious buys.
One of them was some shirts from Visible Clothing. They are smart looking, 100% cotton (perfect for Dubai living); and made to order in a factory in Dharamsala (India), with an international shipping cost of just £3.99 (no minimum order). And, most importantly, they were made in a factory where employees are treated and paid fairly
Instigated by the world’s most catastrophic garment factory collapse in 2013 in Bangladesh where 1,130 people died and over 2500 were injured, the social enterprise started out as a personal project of the owners who were determined to have a wardrobe made by fairly treated tailors. When they realised that they couldn’t guarantee any of their clothes were made responsibly, they gave ALL of them away and started their mission to buy clothes only from responsible companies, documenting their experience on Who Made My Wardrobe.
Positive feedback and a successful crowdfunding campaign led to the birth of Visible – an online clothing store that has a mission to make their people, costs and impact visible; in other words, completely transparent. They will tell you exactly who made your clothes (their names are on the label!), you can ask them where the money went, and you can hear from the factory workers too.
Visible Clothing forces us to ask the question “who made my clothes?” and offers compelling reason for us to reconsider our buying choices to be more aligned with our values.
If you spend some time reading about the Dhaka building collapse, your heart will hurt. Here is an impactful and interactive documentary on the disaster that I highly recommend you bookmark to watch.
Unfortunately, despite this horrific accident, Human Rights Watch reports that violations including physical assault, verbal and sexual abuse, forced overtime, denial of paid maternity leave, and failure to pay wages, continue in Bangladesh garment factories. Bangladesh is the world’s second largest apparel exporter of western brands (first being China), part of a $19 billion industry that employs about 4 million people. Although there seem to be more labour unions now, workers are afraid to speak up as they are threatened by dismissal or assault. The Clean Clothes Campaign managed to get compensation for the victims; however it is shocking to see that some brands we all buy from regularly didn’t care to contribute a dime.
We can impact change in this sector through our purchases. If we all buy responsibly and demand that brands treat their staff fairly, socially irresponsible brands will eventually go out of business. We could possibly see the end of modern day slavery.
I will admit that it’s not the most convenient thing to shop responsibly – the time and effort that goes into it is considerably more than just walking into a store. However, it is well worth it. Hopefully Stewart will feel something a little different when wearing these shirts, knowing that the money spent on them is directly impacting lives.
And for those of you (like Stewart and I) who really don’t enjoy shopping, connecting it to a cause makes it worth your time and money.