LET’S TALK FAIR TRADE
If you’ve been paying attention to any news channels or reports regarding the fashion industry, then you know that there’s a major buzz around sustainability and ethically made products right now. In the past, we rarely asked ourselves – and companies – where our clothes really came from and how they were made. We just knew that they were affordable and it made us very happy.
A visible shift happened in 2013 when an eight-story building, housing a garment factory, collapsed in Bangladesh due to unsafe construction regulations. This accident killed 1,134 people and injured approximately 2,500 people. This was one of the deadliest examples of the mistreatment of factory workers in the garment industry around the world.
As fashion industry insiders and as consumers we all need to understand that fashion is a privilege. We don’t need fashion to survive, it’s only a commodity. It’s been around as long as we can remember and provides a reflection of the society we live in by serving as a historical mirror. Fashion allows us to express ourselves as individuals. It is part of our lives for the better and we will always want to have fashion as a part of our lives. With that being said, the fashion industry has to take responsibility for how it deals with its overseas supply chains and understand the impact behind them.
We shouldn’t be putting clothes on our backs at the expense of others. There are so many opportunities to help economies grow and flourish. It is possible to bring producing opportunities in foreign countries in the right way without having people suffer for us to be fashionable.
Consumers are the ones who control the market. If we no longer accept this kind of unfair treatment of other human beings than “they” will no longer produce that way.
So, what is fair trade anyway? It is a trade partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. To dig deeper, it means that companies also recognize, promote and protect the cultural identity of communities as well as the specific craft skills of small producers. According to the World Fair Trade Organization, there are ten principles to be considered Fair Trade. It goes well beyond just the labelling. To be able to look past the label, you need to know the culture and the conditions farmers, artisans, tailors, and other garment workers are working in.
Since the horrible collapse of 2013, things have started to change in the industry. Having an ethical and fair trade supply chain is definitely difficult. Luckily, there are more organizations, technologies and other initiatives that are encouraging companies to become more responsible. For companies to survive in the future, they need to become transparent about how they make their products. Sustainability and transparency are the future! If all of us continue to take action, tackle the shortcomings of fast fashion, and demand fair trade products, the impact will be major.
Article by Katie Chaplin