Don’t we Know, or Don’t we Care?Sharron Barton
I studied fashion many years ago. Even then I was horrified by what I learned about how garment manufacturing worked, the conditions in factories, treatment of workers, environmental damage and so on. Over the years I’ve hoped things would improve but from all I’ve seen they only got worse.
But very little of it ever makes news in this country. It is still hidden from mainstream, still considered something nobody is interested in, nobody except a select few. The Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 made main news headlines in the UK and cries of “fix it!”. At the time brands and retailers here all informed us they didn’t use such factories, those that did swore to us they didn’t know they were operating in such a way, all assured us wholeheartedly that they’d put it right: they would change and stop it happening again. But within weeks the outcry died down and we returned to blindly buying mass produced, cheap imported clothing without giving a second thought to where they came from or how they were made.
Did everybody actually believe them?
There may have been minor improvements but no major changes so it didn’t surprise me to read about the news about factory workers who left desperate messages in Zara clothes. I don’t want to get into who should be responsible for putting right what has gone wrong in the Bravo Tekstil saga (Bravo Tekstil is the company that produced clothes for Zara), the point is that none of this has made mainstream news. If this had happened here, in a company employing UK workers, it would have been huge news. We are still not, as a nation, putting these companies under scrutiny and examining the practises that fuel the garment industry.
Are most of us still utterly unaware of what goes on in garment manufacturing? Do we really not realise that factory standards, working conditions and pay levels that were declared intolerable and eliminated here decades ago still exist? That these are the reason we can buy clothing at rock bottom prices?
I don’t believe most of us are unaware. There has been enough publicity over the years. We do know, so don’t we care? Or is that if we did acknowledge that we know then we’d have to start caring? And then we’d have to change our ways.
Is that the part that doesn’t suit us?