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.