If you’ve been following the coverage of the garment factory building collapse in Bangladesh, it is a story that continues to horrify and sadden as the death toll is currently rising from 384 (to an estimated 1,300) with nearly 900 still missing. Even more disturbing—other than the fact that fires and building collapses like this aren’t uncommon—are the stories of how hard the employees of the collapsed Rana Plaza building worked for such little money. Garment worker stories have begun unravelling in recent years and companies have been quick to defend—or extract—themselves against any wrongdoing (like Benetton, who recently retracted a statement denying they used garment factories in Rana Plaza when their clothing was found in the rubble). But other clothing companies have gone a step further to ensure the safety and well being of their factory workers in places like Bangladesh and India. Here’s the Nudie Jeans story.
“Since Autumn 2012, Nudie Jeans has paid living wages to the workers at our T-shirt supplier in India. We believe that everyone who participates in the manufacturing of our clothes should have a wage enough to live on. This is part of our strategy to take responsibility on how our products are manufactured. We think it’s important discussing this issue in the low-wage countries where there is a big difference between minimum wage and the actual living wage. The living wage level has been calculated in cooperation with the supplier and the aid of the Asian Floor Wage benchmarks, and is an increase of approximately 17% of a worker’s annual salary. So far, our share of the total production is limited, which means that it requires several companies producing at this supplier to pay their share. It’s only then the salaries will reach the level of living wage for all workers, and can be extended throughout the manufacturing chain. Paying our share of the living wage is a step in the right direction and Nudie Jeans is proud to be part of that development. We hope to inspire other brands to follow this initiative.”
It’s important for garment companies to take responsibility for their products and to know where their clothing is being made. We’re living in a time of cheaply-made fast fashion where the demand for the latest, greatest trend piece at the lowest price trumps what went into producing it (and the lives those garments affected). I don’t want to preach or stand on a soap box, but not only is it important for companies to start taking a closer look at the lives they’re affecting, I think it’s important that we take a closer look at what we’re buying as consumers. How many times have you purchased something inexpensive and trendy that you’ve never worn and probably never will? Did you think about the person who stitched that shirt or romper, how they may have worked a 17 hour day at roughly 40 cents an hour to make it? That they might have been punished for asking to use the restroom, belittled or abused, or maybe gone much of the day without food or water?
Perhaps if other companies took a stand like Banana Republic did in 2008, by investigating one of their factories in India, or like Nudie Jeans did in the wake of this disaster, more people would become aware of where their apparel comes from. And perhaps the lives of these workers might someday soon change for the better.
If you’d like to read more, check out Buzzfeed’s article “How Your Addiction to Fast Fashion Kills”.