I couldn’t help but wonder if any of my clothes were made in factories just like the one that collapsed last Wednesday in Dhaka, Bangladesh and killed over 300 people. One can’t know for sure. The supply chain within the garment industry is very complex, and thus very difficult to pinpoint where one finished product comes from, despite what the labels say. According to this PBS video, there are contractors and subcontractors and distributors all along the chain. CBCNews Canada describes in this article the difficulties in learning exactly where and how a specific garment was made.
What can the average American citizen do in order to buy clothes while avoiding exploiting worker Well, here are a few ideas:
1) For one, you could shop conscientiously. Be informed and be a more responsible shopper. This means doing a bit of research before shopping for a new garment. There is Maggie’s, which boasts sustainable and fair-labor-made clothing. Or go to Good Guide, where you can search brand names in clothing, food, and other products, and see how they are rated based on how healthy, green, and socially responsible they are. According to its website, Good Guide uses a sophisticated rating system.
2) Buy clothing locally. In Atlanta, there is the Beehive, which hosts clothes made by independent designers in the local community.
3) Buy used clothes. They’re cheaper than buying at regular retail price. And if you can’t let go of high-end brands, you can sometimes find some really good brands in stores like Goodwill and The Lucky Exchange.
4) Make your own clothes. Then there won’t be any doubt as to who’s made your clothing. I’ve been wanting to learn how to do just that for several years now but haven’t gotten around to it. If the workers in Bangladesh can do it, I can do it. Designing and making my own clothes (or getting them made) would be much more rewarding than simply buying a ready-to-wear garment from a store. It also gives me a chance to be creative.
If you want to learn more about campaigns that work to end sweatshops and secure workers’ rights abroad and at home, check out the following: