Real Talk: The Bangledash Fires and Our Clothing Obsessions

Bangladesh Clothing. Source: Orangeadnan, flickr.com

Bangladesh Clothing. Source: Orangeadnan, flickr.com

More than 700 people died when the Rana Plaza, which housed garment factories and shops, collapsed on April 24 [2013]. Workers continue to find bodies, many of them decomposed and difficult to recognize.” These word from the CNN article hit my heart like a falling brick.

Everybody wants to look reasonably presentable, but for some of us we are simply obsessed with clothing. For whatever reason, myself included, we buy our children and ourselves more clothes than there are days in the year for them/us to wear. When I heard about the Bangledash Fire at Rana Plaza, I could almost smell the ash from the burning building and see the poor workers who risked their lives so that our need for excessive consumption could be satisfied.

With the recession underway it is understandable that we want clothes at the cheapest prices we can fine, but what is our responsibility at the end of the day to the people who are being exploited? When in our hearts we know that ethically some of the companies we support try to get the cheapest labour they can without paying decent wages are ensuring the safety of their workers.

I remember when I was still in college, hearing about some brands, that I will not name in this post, employing thousands of factory workers under deplorable work conditions and having them work extremely long hours. After I learned about the companies actions, I stopped buying their merchandise, I mentioned it to my friends, but for the most part it was a one-woman boycott, until the news was no-longer on the front page of my mind and the people who had suffered were forgotten. It wasn’t until I heard about the recent Bangledash fires that I asked myself again, “What can we do to make a difference and show our family and friends that other people do matter; instead, of just feeling sorry for the people who died and suffer within these unfavorable conditions daily? I believe, we can do some of the following things to actively show that clothing practices do matter to us! The most important choice we have to make is to stand up to the companies and STOP purchasing their clothes. Below are some other options we have as well.

Buy Used Clothing

Vintage, thrifting, swapping, etc are all popular and you can buy very nice and sometimes new items if you have time to search throughout the stores. These options save money and cut down on the need for excessive production. Up-cycle used clothes and modify it just a bit, to create something that will be perfect for you and your wardrobe.

Research Companies and Buy from Those who are ethical

There are a lot of things we research before we buy them (such as cars, baby products, skin-care, insurance, etc) and clothing should be added to the list. Support and reward companies who are responsible and care about human-kind rather than only being concerned about their bottom-line.

Buy items made locally or in the US

If you can find a shop that makes their own clothes you have found a rare gem. The clothes are probably not massed produced so you wouldn’t have to worry about seeing your outfit on others and you would also be stimulating your local economy.

Consume Less

Only purchase the amount of clothing you actually need. Many of our closets could rival one of a celebrity. But is it really necessary for us to have that many clothes? Probably not. If everyone would consume less the need for these over-filled factories would lessen and maybe the push for better conditions would be taken seriously.

Sew Your Own Clothing

This option does take some skill and creativity so it may not be for everyone. But the benefits of sewing your own clothes or finding a local seamstress are enormous. The clothes can be tailored to fit your body type, so the fit will be improved. The clothes will also be just what you want so you wont have to search high and low for a hard-to-find garment. Sewing classes are offered in many places, some churches, recreation centers, community colleges, etc you will just need to do you research.

Although many believe, we as the consumers are not the problem. It is the brands and companies who are not doing their jobs ethically who are at fault. The fact remains, that the companies will never take full responsibility until they feel the hurt reflected on their quarterly financial reports. If we as consumers are blind to the small role we play, then we in fact, do contribute to situations like these on a small scale. Sure, the people in these countries need jobs, but the factories need to be safe. The people who died are hard-workers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, etc and they deserve better.

Learn More

Listen to a survivor from the Bangledesh Tazreen fire that collapsed in November  2012- “Survivor of Bangladesh’s Tazreen Factory Fire Urges U.S. Retailers to Stop Blocking Worker Safety

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