Before we think about the fibres our clothes are made from, let’s think of the people who make the clothes.  Many manufacturing processes, such as in the car industry, use a lot of automation but clothes need to be made individually… by people. Everyone in the chain of production wants to make a profit, from the producers of the fibres to the sellers of the clothes and we, as buyers, have been trained to expect really cheap prices.  So, who do you think really pays the price for all this?  The people who make the garments of course.  Ludvig Hambro, a fashion blogger from Norway, who spent one month in a Cambodian clothing factory, says:

“We are rich because it costs us 10 Euro to buy a T shirt (at) H&M. But somebody else has to starve for you to be able to buy it.”

Labour behind the Label is a not-for-profit company and also a registered charity. They campaign for workers’ rights worldwide and raise awareness, provide information and promote international solidarity between workers and consumers.  Their website is worth a visit for up-to-date information about the clothing industry.  Here are some headlines to make you think a bit before you click on “checkout” for your next clothing purchase.

  • Workers at a Next factory in Sri Lanka have unionised but Next refuses to recognise the union.
  • Garment makers in Leicester, UK, producing clothes primarily for online retailer Boohoo were paid as little as £2.50 an hour (the current minimum wage is £9.50 an hour) and were given no adequate protection from Covid-19.
  • There are between 1000 and 1500 clothing factories in Leicester.
  • Women working in UK garment factories are four times as likely to die from Covid-19 than women in other occupations.
  • Garment workers, predominantly in Asia and predominantly women of colour, have been found working for up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week- and earn as little as £4 per day.

But there are companies, which do things differently. Sustainable Henfield’s tote bags come from a company called Continental Clothing. They also produce blank garments for other companies and designer-makers to add their own printed designs. Quoting directly from their website-

” We all have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, a living wage, a legally binding contract.  We all have a right to be free from discrimination and harassment, to join-or not to join- a labour union, to choose our work freely.  We all have a right to fair and reasonable working hours.  And our children have a right to go to school.”

The Good Shopping Guide published an “Ethical Fashion Retailers Ethical Comparison Table”, which is subdivided into different areas for comparison.  Many companies score well in the process side of production, but score badly, still, on the “Human Rights” aspect of their systems. George at Asda, Matalan, Primark, among others, score low in this table.

These are among the many, many articles, websites and comparisons and lists available should you wish to investigate further-

The Good Shopping, as detailed above.

Glamour Magazine “Why you should pay attention to sustainable fashion”.

The Guardian “Ethical fashion”.

Labour Behind the, as detailed above.

The Economist has an article on You Tube

Moral a “Green lifestyle Blog” with lots of thought- provoking articles, not only under the Fashion category, e.g. “40+ Ethical clothing for women”, but about all aspects of living ethically, e.g. “how to revive tired bees”!– more than clothes

Continental, as described above, but much more info.