On April 24, 2013, over 1133 innocent garment workers, the vast majority women, lost their lives in the Bangladesh Rana Plaza factory collapse — the 3rd largest industrial tragedy in history. These garment workers work long hours to make our clothes, underpaid and in unsafe conditions. Inspectors knew the building was unsafe, but workers were forced inside to meet the brand’s large orders. Children lost their mothers. Families were torn apart. All in the name of American clothing brands seeking cheap labor, with no regard for fair pay and working conditions or human life.
What no one thinks about is that clothes manufactured days before the disaster, were delivered out of the factory and reached the stores. Clothes made in fear were sold all over the world, and worn, and most likely, discarded after a few uses.
This year marks the 5th year anniversary of Rana Plaza and I wonder if the industry and the consumer’s thinking has change. Is there anything we have learned ? Let’s see:
Justice -Not only have 38 people now been charged of murder, including factory owner Sohal Rana who attempted to flee in a 4 day man-hunt. The Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund was set up and raised $30million to be paid in compensation for the workers. This is a huge step forward in recognizing the justice these workers deserve.
Commitments - After the collapse, two agreements were formed: The Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Combined, the Accord and the Alliance represent 1900 factories that have direct contracts with major brands. The Accord alone has 200+ brands committed to only working with the 1600+ factories that adhere to protect workers and their safety.
Unions - 50 unions were formed within the 1st year alone. The Ananta Garment Factory is a good example of a unionised factory that supports their garment workers. When workers spotted and reported cracks in the walls, much like in Rana Plaza, repairs were made and full compensation was granted for missing working days.
Transparency – The Apparel and Footwear Supply Chain Transparency Pledge includes 17 out of 72 apparel and footwear companies contacted by the Human Rights Watch. The pledge commits companies to publish information that will enable advocates, workers, and consumers to find out where their products are made instead of being plagued by secrecy.
Consumers and Brands - There has been a huge shift since Rana Plaza in what customers demand from their products, and sustainability is at the top of the list. Brands are changing their ethos to be more transparent and sustainable. The more consumers demand a cleaner supply chain, the more the brands are delivering.
Although there is still a lot do, The Fashion Revolution has ignited the passion and consumers and brands all over the world are joining forces to make the supply chain more transparent and fair. A movement that started by the commitment of two women designers in England, Orsola de Castro and Carry Sommers, to bring justice to the workers has revolutionized fashion!
I hope you can join us this Saturday, for Fashion Revolution Miami to celebrate and commemorate this movement along with local activists, designers, entrepreneurs, writers, makers, producers, workers, leaders, fashion lovers, and all. Click HERE for more information.