The Ugly Side of Fashion. And where does your fabric come from?

Like all of us, I was shocked and very saddened to hear of the tragedy that occurred at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. People lost lives, 1,100 of them according to the article in the link. Imagine 1,100 people for a minute. To put it in some kind of London-centric context, it’s a five-carriage Underground train full of people. Others had limbs amputated and sufferred horrific injuries, all this and the impact this has on the families and communities emotionally and financially for years to come. I can’t imagine the fear and pain these people went through, are still going through. I don’t want to go into this particular incident too deeply in this post but it’s clear that people are still working in dangerous conditions. This is all due to our insatiable need for more and cheaper stuff, and corporations demanding cheaper overheads and higher profit margins. We’re all to blame for buying into the myth that the availability of cheap stuff is without payback but we manage to sleep at night because buildings don’t come crashing down on our heads or on the heads of anyone we know.

Reading about the Rana Plaza tragedy reminded me that I should be far more mindful when making choices, particularly when buying clothes. I mean, I wouldn’t buy eggs laid by caged hens, so why would I buy something made by people who are caged in dilapidated and burning buildings? I’m not perfect in this regard but I am trying to educate myself in what kind of impact my choices have. With this in mind, I recently downloaded Lucy Siegle’s “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?” It’s an engaging and uncompromising read, which gives a lot of insight into the fashion and textile industry.  And most of these insights are pretty damning. I honestly did not know how much I didn’t know about the clothes I own  –  the true environmental and human cost. Why isn’t this information more easily available? The tags on my clothes tell me the fibre content, washing instructions and the country it was “made” in, whatever “made actually means, origin of fabric? where the fabric was processed? sewn? Shop floors give me loads of detail on how to accessorise an outfit but aren’t exactly forthcoming about the origin of their stock. Why is this so?

Ready-made clothes are one thing, I think most people have an idea of which retailers are less than trustworthy and a lot of retailers parade “eco” collections every so often to assuage our enviro-guilt  but, as a sewist, what I really want to know is, where does my fabric come from? I asked a sales assistant last week and she couldn’t tell me. It’s not her fault of course but I really wanted to know and neither of us could find that information on the bolt of fabric. So, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a bit of research and find out. I wonder if this is a good idea or maybe I’ll just end up depressing myself. At least I’ll know.


PS: Earlier this year, I wrote about buying less, and sewing more with the fabric I already have. Some of my fellow bloggers have gone even further  and signed up to the great Love What You Wear Project, pledging to buy nothing new and make do and mend for months or even a full year. I haven’t gone quite that far but my watered-down version of the LWYW project is going pretty well.

About Vanessa

Sewing and assorted nonsense. For reasons that escape me, I left the sunshine and beaches of Australia for the crisps and glitter of London in 2001. I now live in the middle of some kind of feline drop-in centre in East London battling for space to make costumes and clothes. Over on twitter and instagram as @smittenness Email over here ------>
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6 Responses to The Ugly Side of Fashion. And where does your fabric come from?

  1. dressesandme says:

    it’s all quite frightening once you start reading about these issues. I remember hearing about the Bangladesh tragedy on the radio and thinking the same thing – if this had happened in the West (or Auckland, where I am) this would change the way we do things. We would not be ok with it!

  2. sweary sewer says:

    i’d be interested to know where the fabric i buy comes from too. i suspect you’ll end up depressing us both, but still, i’d like to know.

    • smittenness says:

      I think you’re right. I almost don’t want to know but now that it’s in my head, I need to know. In some ways, I’m probably going to regret this….

  3. Gjeometry says:

    Thanks for the link to the download. Looks like a good resource to have!

  4. I could not agree more. Knowing how long it take to make a garment, costs of fabric and addittives – I am always looking with disbelieve to prices in the shops – but it is a mass production and I am making one, unique, tailored garment…
    I think we cannot close eyes and pretend we do not see it all… how to solve this situation?… it is very difficult issue.

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