By Sophie Sonnenberger
Shopping is a fun thing to do and a treat not only for fashionistas. But since the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed and buried thousands of workers underneath it, things are not the same anymore. The disaster has alienated a lot of consumers and people didn`t know which brands and retailers they could trust. They were wondering how they should be able to judge weather a shirt was produced in a fair and sustainable environment or not. The tag seemed to be a quick and easy answer. When it says ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Bangladesh’ it was certainly a hint for really poor working conditions and hazardous chemicals for many people. Whereas ‘Made in Europe’ sounded a lot more trustworthy and made people paying higher prices.
In fact ‘for good or for ill, there is no one size fits all box (…)’, states the organisation Ecouterre. Neither for fashion produced in Asia, America nor Europe. This basically means that working conditions can be fair and sustainably friendly anywhere in the world and so can be the process of production. No matter if the working conditions in Asia and Central and South America are generally very poor and exploitation is a huge issue. ‘Made in China’ should therefore pull nobody off from buying clothes and just the ‘Made in Europe’ tag does certainly not guarantee safe working conditions. Even though it might be surprising for many costumers, but sweatshops exist in certain places in Europe and even in New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. But was does the tag say about the origin of our clothing?
It is a long journey from the farming of raw cotton to a ready-made jumper in a department store. Supply chains are generally long in the fashion industry, which means that the jumper did quite a lot of traveling before it ended up in a shop. It might have met hazardous chemicals during it`s dying process and it was certainly touched by more than one pair of hands. Despite many costumers might assume that, the ‘Made in China’ tag doesn`t mean that the whole process of farming and production took place in China. The sewing might have been done in a Chinese
factory, whereas the buttons might come from Bangladesh and the zipper from Turkey. The tag just provides basic information on where the main part of production took place. Anyway, the tag is not a really reliable source of information for costumers.
‘Every company is different, so (people) need to do find out what goes on behind each (…) label’, states Ecouterre. Conscious costumers have to do their own individual research on labels before every shopping trip. And they should use their common sense and question the prices they see in store. They should wonder: ‘Is it really possible to produce a winter coat for 30 pounds in a fair way?’
All costumers who do not want to rely on their own research skills can check those green shopping guides. They provide useful information about different labels and you can go ahead an research weather your favourite brand is green or not:
3. Ethical consumer:
5. Future threads project: