For our first collection, 10% of the sale is going towards Labour Behind the Label, a Bristol-based charity that seeks to help garment workers in the global south.
A couple of months ago, fast-fashion brand Boohoo made headlines when it was reported that they made their employees in Leicester factories work in awful conditions despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Not only were employers paid well-below the legal minimum wage, but they also were accused of poor, cramped working conditions with no social distancing or covid-regulations in place. But it’s not just the Boohoo group that have despicable practises. Companies like H&M, Primark, Mango, Missguided, Topshop and Zara have all been complicit. In October 2020, Mango fired 738 of their workers for requesting “clean drinking water”, and due to the Covid-19 pandemic Topshop, Zara, H&M and Primark cancelled orders and refused to pay suppliers and factories in the global South, which caused a total loss of £12.3 billion.
The most frightening thing, is that most of these companies have a “sustainable” section on their website, as well as “sustainable” clothing lines and initiatives. Whilst to some degree it could be argued that its a good thing that these companies have these initiatives in place and still keeping their clothing affordable for all. However, they certainly are not out of their woods, as their business model of cheaply produced clothing and 26 seasons a year rotation is still incredibly harmful to the planet. Plus, they still don’t ensure that their garment workers are being paid a living wage.
In western countries, we all are or have been privy to disconnect our actions. You may walk into Topshop or browse Asos and see a new dress you want to buy for the summer or a new coat for the winter without thinking of the consequences of your actions. With Black Friday this weekend and the mass-discounts across the high-street, it can be easier to be “clothes-blind” and only see the cheap prices.
Simply put, the reason as to why your fast fashion items are so cheap is because the person sewing them isn’t being paid enough to eat. According to chnge, it takes a garment worker 18 months to earn what a fast-fashion brand CEO makes on their lunch break.
Labour Behind the Label works with consumers and with trade unions in the global south, placing pressure on companies to ensure that their workers need’s are being met. Human rights abuses are endemic throughout the garment industry, not to mention that 80% of garment workers are women. These men, women and children are subject to long hours, forced overtime, unsafe working conditions, sexual physical and verbal abuse, short-term contracts and repression of trade union rights.
Labour Behind the Label are the only UK campaign group that focuses exclusively on labour rights in the global garment industry. Founded in 2001, they are a trailblazing company that have been instrumental in pushing UK retailers to address and make systemic changes throughout their company. One of these was the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety which ensures that those who were victims to the Rhana Plaza disaster receive long term compensation. The Rhana Plaza disaster was a rude and painful awakening to the world; five factories in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1136. But this wasn’t just the first, or the last of these atrocities. Lack of health and safety has meant that these factories are prone to electrical fires, boiler explosions, and poor construction. The lack of (or none) of fire extinguishers, emergency exits or adequate training has meant that these workers are trapped inside when these atrocities occur.
According to Labour Behind the Label, there are other hazards too. Dangerous chemicals and techniques lead to long term and fatal illnesses like respiratory problems, chronic back pain, poor eyesight and needle stick injuries.
Labour Behind the Labels helps to improve this disconnect by delivering speaker tours and sharing stories of garment workers who are striking as well as working with brands, governments and NGO’s to change and improve their conditions.
So next time you do some online shopping, just have a think when you look at the price, who made these clothes?
You can donate to Labour Behind the Label here. For every £1, 75p goes towards Human Rights Work and 25p goes towards fundraising costs.