Who Really Made My Clothes?

Image source: Tareq Salahuddin



Image source: Fashion Revolution/Matt Hoggett





Mel Tually. Image source: supplied
Mel Tually. Image source: supplied













3 years after the Rana Plaza Collapse, questions still remain about the fashion supply chain.

Here’s a basic fact within the fashion industry – anything that we buy would have passed through at least a hundred hands and a variety of factories before landing in your wardrobe. This complex supply chain and how deep it can reach provides ample opportunities for individuals to be exploited.

We all can do our bit to reduce the lack of transparency in the supply chain, by being more conscious with what we do with our clothes, shopping ethically and creating conversations around issues in a persons supply chain.

For many, shopping ethically may be beyond someone’s means because it might seem a little bit daunting due to price costs. However, ethical shopping does not need to be daunting for anyone, regardless if you’re on a shoestring budget or an extravagant one.

Price points of ethical clothing isn’t as high as we think it is – it’s a matter of knowing what type of credential you are wanting, the brand you’re looking at and seeing if they are running programs to address supply chain issues.

Example – if you’re concerned about sustainability and labour issues and you’re wanting to buy from H&M, it’s good to know that H&M up-cycles jeans, has a organic cotton range of t-shirts and has implemented several pilot programs to address not only labour issues but also sustainability issues.

Fashion Revolution’s Australia and New Zealand’s Coordinator, Melinda Tually suggests that you can shop ethically even on a shoestring budget – it’s all a matter of framing and perception.

“It’s about framing how you go shopping differently, and thinking about it differently. So instead of buying disposable clothing (which is at that $10 – $15 price point), slow down your consumption and you might find that you have more money to spend on something of high quality that will last longer.”

Tually was a sustainable retailer stocking home ware and gifts when she noticed that the changes and developments in the fashion sector were growing at a rapid rated compared to the home ware and gifts sector. Intrigued by this, she attended a break out session run by Fashion Revolution founders at the Ethical Fashion Source Conference in London in the year that the Rana Plaza collapsed. She’s been running the campaign here in Australia ever since answering the call to coordinate the campaign.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh on the 24th of April 2013 opened a conversation around supply chain issues, including the lack of transparency and traceability within supply chains. The consequent reaction saw global brands, including H&M, Primark and Walmart, contribute $21.5 millions to the fund (set up by the ILO) for the victims and their families.

Yet questions about the deepness of the supply chain and it’s consequent lack of transparency still remain. Questions that Fashion Revolution is trying to get answered.

“Fashion Revolution is a global movement with volunteers in, I think it’s over 81 countries around the world now, and we encourage greater transparency and traceability in the fashion supply chain.”

“In a nutshell, we are passionate about a cleaner and safer industry for all members of the value chain, be it a cotton producer in the field or a garment maker in a factory. We’re trying to advocate for a safer and fairer practice all along the value chain,” explained Tually.

“We feel that by creating a platform consumers can ask about the provenance and conditions from where they come and brands can respond these questions. By framing this in a positive light, we can foster a greater understanding of what people want to know about what they buy.”

An important way of fostering this conversation between consumers and producers is to approach in a range of initiatives by a range of supporters.

“It is quite hard to get big name brands who are competitors in the same market space together about an issue that is important for all them and can only addressed by brands actually collaborating on the issue. It needs industry wide approaches and multi-stakeholder initiatives,” so Melinda Tually.

“No one brand can eliminate slavery, no one brand can tackle the issue of living wage, no one brand can tackle the issue of toxics in factories.”

By Sophia van Gent