Ethics of the Garment Industry Series

We always write about how important we think it is to shop ethically. It could be second hand clothes, fair trade jewellery or buying meats that have been raised ethically.

There are many reasons for this:

  • We like recycling
  • It’s good to know something has lasted such a long time
  • That it has been enjoyed before, that it is being used to its fullest
  • It’s fun looking for unique products that no one else will have
  • It’s important that there is a story behind our belongings
  • Recently I bought a pair of earrings for my mum. It was made from glass found in Bangladesh from broken windows. It’s so cool knowing there is a use for everything you find
  • It is also because we don’t enjoy the greed that is produced from living in a consumerist society

One reason we dislike fast fashion is because it is unnecessary. Oh So Ethical might love shopping but we don’t like the greed that fast fashion produces. I remember when I worked in a clothing store I was told that every week we get new clothes. At first I thought this was really good but I soon realised how silly this was. Why do we need new fashion so often? Are we that shallow? Fast cheap fashion can make people search high and low for a bargain, but never once consider where the clothes came from. At Oh So Ethical we put ourselves in the shoes of people working unfair hours, with unfair pay and no rights. We put that before what we want to wear.

Whilst we want to promote recycling and fair trade, we don’t want to ignore the work that brands do to be more sustainable and ethical. If we applaud their efforts it will encourage them to move further into the direction of respecting human beings rather than dressing them in cheap pretty clothes.

In a series of posts we will be examining what businesses have done since the Rana Plaza collapsed, asking:

  • How have they helped those affected?
  • How do they ensure garment workers are treated well (pay, hours, rights)?
  • Do they care about the environment?
  • What is their social impact?

We can start with Primark. Growing up and not having a lot of money, I saw Primark as a great place for a shopping spree. Primark is enormous and you can find anything you want there.

In his book the Song of the Shirt, Jeremy Seabrook writes “The children of the poor in Bangladesh are making clothes for the children of the poor in the west”.

When I realised that the clothes that I had could have been made by someone that has just died making more of these clothes I couldn’t go back. However, since the collapse Primark have made an effort to become an ethically conscious brand.

How have they helped those affected?

  • Primark was the one of the businesses that took fast action after the collapse. They set up helpdesks near the factory site immediately after the collapse in order to help victims, workers and families
  • They gave emergency food parcels to over 1265 households
  • They have worked with local partners in Bangladesh to give long term and short temp help in the form of compensation, financial support and food aid
  • They are also working with the industry to make garment making safer
  • In May 2013 they signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, initiated by the IndustriALL and UNI Global Unions
  • In June 2013 they began inspecting building structures

A Primark spokesman said “We want everyone, especially the workers themselves, to be confident that Primark products are produced in safe factories”.

How do they ensure garment workers are treated fairly?

Primark states that most factory’s pay the same wage regardless of whether the worker is making clothes for a luxury brand or a value retailer.

They emphasise that their low prices don’t mean that they pay low wages.

I always wondered how they can pay a good wage to someone whilst charging so little for clothes. If a shirt is £2.50 how much of it goes towards the person who made it? Primark say that they are able to charge so little because they don’t spend money on expensive adverts, they get good deals by ordering large amounts of supplies and have their clothes made efficiently, for example by sourcing fabrics close to the factory.

And what about safety?

They do not place an order with a supplier until they are inspected against the code. Factories are inspected internally and externally. They also ensure that workers are of legal working age. Their suppliers have to follow a code of conduct where there are good working conditions; workers are treated well, know their rights, learn how to budget and get paid a fair wage. They are also working towards helping workers earn a living wage.

Do they care about the environment?

Primark joined Greenpeace’s Detox campaign and was recognised as a leader on the issue.

Energy saving– They work to reduce the energy used in stores by using green technology like low level lighting.

Environmental Impact– They are working with Our Cleaner Production programmes to help textile factories reduce and respect the natural resources they use.

Farmers– In 2013, Primark started a program in partnership with CottonConnect to help farmers learn better techniques on how to reduce the amount of water and pesticides they use, and how to improve the cotton they grow in order to earn more money.

What is their social impact?

Charity– They have almost raised 3 million euros by donating clothes to be recycled and used it to support disabled terminally ill children and research into birth defects.

Education– Primark also working towards showing communities how important education is for children

Women’s Health– As women make up 80% of the workers Primark has partnered with Business For Responsibility on an initiative that provides health education and access to healthcare. They select a group of women to be coaches in each factory and train them on health needs. These women can then support and train other women. Factories have begun to sell discounted sanitary towels and created links with local clinics and hospitals. As we’re women we can imagine how hard it is not to have things that we consider basic necessities like sanitary towels or have birth control. It does make us respect Primark for the effort they put into women’s livelihoods.

Eco friendly cruelty free sustainable and fabulous haircare

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I recently started using Avalon volumizing shampoo. I wanted to use the nourishing one but they didn’t have it in store, and I didn’t have time to order it online.
I’ve been using this for about 2 months now and I have to say there are so many noticeable differences between using a natural organic shampoo and an ordinary one.

1. My hair feels SO clean when I’m washing it. I remember I once put oil in my hair and it put me off from ever doing it again because my shampoo didn’t wash it out. I think I ended up using fairy liquid to get it out! Since I have dry hair I have used coconut oil now and then before washing and there is no greasiness after I wash.

2. My hair stays cleaner for longer. When I used herbal essences I knew I had to wash my hair on the second day, if not earlier. This shampoo leaves me hair looking clean for…I’d say 3 days. I’m sure everyone is different but that’s better than almost 2 days. My friend uses a lush shampoo and says the same thing- hair feels cleaner for longer.

2.1 you also waste less water by not washing your hair so often

2.2 you shouldn’t be washing your hair too often. It’s not good for it!

3. It’s made from ingredients that are 100% natural, and organic and cruelty free. We contribute to the way the world works with every action. I think ensuring that even the smallest things in our lives have a good impact is so important. Being kind to our planet, our bodies and animals. That’s our job.

I will be trying the nourishing lavender shampoo and conditioner next. Its just because I think my hair needs some extra care because it can get dry. I’m sure it’ll be just as good if not better. I’d definitely recommend this 🙂

Guide to Ethical/Vintage/Charity Shops in London

So here is a short list of nice places to shop. Places to find clothes that are ethical, second hand, vintage, handmade and by independent designers. We will add to the list as we discover more but if you need inspiration look no further!

The list will start with Angel! These are a few things I picked up.

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Found them at:

Oxfam- 29 Islington high st

The Fara Workshop- 28-32 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9HJ

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Brick Lane obviously has awesome vintage shops. These are my favourite: 

Blitz- 55-59 Hanbury St, London E1 5JP

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Rokit-101 Brick Ln, London E1 6SE

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Beyond Retro- 110-112 Cheshire St, London E2 6EJ

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The Laden Showroom- The Rib Man, 103 Brick Ln, Greater London E1 6SE

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Wood Green has a cluster of charity shop gold. This list goes from Turnpike lane to Wood Green station.

Cancer Research

Shelter

North London Hospice

Traid

British Heart Foundation

Dalston also has a a few charity shops I enjoyed visiting when I worked in the area:

Traid- 106-108 Kingsland High St, London E8 2NS

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This dress was from Traid. Love it SO much.

Oxfam- 514 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AR

St Vincents- 484-486 Kingsland Rd London E8 4AE

Camden is great for having both vintage and charity in the same place. If you walk from Mornington Crescent towards Camden Market:

British Heart Foundation

Oxfam

Cancer Research

Scope

Rokit- 226 Camden High St

Only one for Notting Hill at the moment but I hear there are lot’s of places I need to visit!

Mary’s Living and Giving Shop- 177 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2SB

This one has a special place in my heart as I volunteered there for a summer and I loved it there.

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Simple steps to living more ethically

  1. Live within your means and buy only what you need – It’s easy to buy what you want, buying what you need is completely different. 
  2. It may be 2015 but your iPhone xyz from 2011 could have worked perfectly fine till now. There was/is no need for yearly upgrades. As long as you can call and text your phone is perfect. That is all you really need from a phone.
  3. Do you really need to buy that extra pair of jeans from Levis, Primark or Topshop? Are all of your clothes so beyond wearing that they are full of holes? If you really want a new pair of jeans buy a pair from eBay, Oxfam or your local charity shop. Buy from the high-street when you absolutely need new clothes.
  4. You like lucozade, you like coke. But you LOVE Mcdonalds. It is no secret that all of these products are full of sugar and are extremely unhealthy. Cut these products down till you want them once a month or not at all. Creating smoothies from berries and bananas or burgers from fresh meat is so simple and so much healthier for you. 
  5. What you might not know is that such brands are part of an economy that thrives on labour. Child Labour, Sweatshop labour and unsafe labour.  

While the idea that ‘you are what you eat’ is true. It is also true that ‘you are what you buy.’ You support what the products you buy support. You harm what the products you buy harm and you save what the products you buy save. 

Choose the last one, save lives and the environment with the products you buy. 

The Oh So Ethical Guide to Online Charity Shops

There are countless charity shops dotted around but finding time to get to them is difficult when you work 9-5!

I have curated a list of online charity shops for our busy bees and for those who just don’t like to shop in-stores.

  1. oxfam oxfambooksn1  – http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop
  2. Sue Ryder sueryderleicester suerydervintage – http://shop.sueryder.org/
  3. Scope – http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/scope_charity_shop
  4. Marie Curie  – https://shop.mariecurie.org.uk/
  5. British Heart Foundation  – http://giftshop.bhf.org.uk/
  6. Race for Life – https://raceforlife.cancerresearchuk.org/rfl/forms/shop/shop.jsf

I will add more to the list as I discover more but that is the list for now! 

Some of these shops are merchandise from the charity while others are literally online charity shops.

Happy shopping!

Acholi Jewellery- Behind the Paper Beads

My friend Eleanor visits Uganda frequently. She always brings back beautiful handmade jewellery and makes sure to pay a fair price for it. Here, she writes about the women who make the jewellery.

It has been five years since I first ventured to Uganda and just last week I returned from my sixth trip to the country which has become my second home. There are many things that keep me going back including the beauty of the land and the people. One of the many reasons I am drawn back is because of a place called Kireka and although you will find beauty in the people here the same cannot be said for their history or the surroundings they now find themselves in.

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To be more specific the place I am talking about in Kireka is what has become to be known as the ‘Acholi quarters’ due to many Acholi people from the North of the country settling here after fleeing war there. You may have come to know ‘Kony’ through the big media storm of 2012 and from this understand that he carried out war crimes in North Uganda, the atrocities he carried out are what caused the Acholi people to flee their homes. So this is why many Acholi people found themselves in Kireka but unfortunately this is not where their story of hardship ends. 

As is often the case in conflict of those who fled the North many of them were women and children who now found themselves in a city setting coming from a rural setting. Those who had been displaced now had to adapt to living in the country’s capital city, Kampala, and where they came to settle in Kireka the main work for them was in a quarry breaking down rock into gravel. I have witnessed this work and to say it’s hard is a serious understatement. Women sit on the ground in the scorching sun with just a hammer and bare hands break the rock down. This tedious work leaves the women with cut, blistered hands and there are also reports of them being beaten while they work.
There is still hope though. After the turmoil in the North it is now a peaceful and safe place to visit with development taking place there which may present the possibility for those who fled to establish a life there again. For those in Kireka there is also an alternative source of income in the form of making beads from recycled paper. Bead making involves cutting and rolling the paper to make beautiful designs out of what would be waste. Those who make the beads will mostly sell them to local craft markets and won’t get a great price for their products however as I mentioned the people of Kireka are one of the reasons I keep going back to Uganda and I always love to buy their crafts from them but for a fair price!  

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When I am buying from the Acholi women they will dictate the price of their products to me ensuring that they receive a fair price for their products. I have to admit I always go to Kireka with a budget of what I will spend on their crafts but more often than not they make it near impossible for me to stick to this! I am always amazed by the different things they’re making and without fail there are always new designs from various bead designs in earlier years to bowls made from recycled paper in more recent years. One of the great things about the group of women I work with is that they work in co-operation with each other, each specialising in different designs. Specialising in different designs ensures when I am buying different designs different women will benefit and they’re not in completion with each other. Once I have bought the women’s crafts I sell them in UK to fund various projects in Uganda.
So what can you do to help? Well first I would say why not visit Uganda! Go to Kireka first hand to show your solidarity, see how the Acholi women live, make their crafts and buy them from them first hand so they receive the full benefit. Many tourists will buy these crafts from craft markets but unfortunately there is little benefit for the producers this way. Another thing you could do whilst in Uganda is take a trip to the North to support tourism and further development in this region. I am yet to visit Acholi in the North but it is number one on my to do list!
Can’t wait for Uganda? If you would love some of the beautiful crafts made by the Acholi women now you are in luck as I have a fresh batch from my recent visit! You can buy from me knowing that the women have received a good price for their goods and with the money raised going towards further efforts to help the women and establish a market for their goods in the UK.  
If you are interested in wholesale bulk buys or individual purchases of the crafts you can contact me on [email protected] for further enquiries or pictures plus watch this space for an online shop soon!

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Animal welfare

I strongly urge omnivores to rethink the decisions they make about eating meat.
Cows, chickens, pigs and fish are all treated cruelly.

They are raised in factory farm. They can’t move, they don’t live for long, they grow unnaturally fast, they are pumped with drugs, their feaces is often still on them as they’re sold, they can’t naturally reproduce, never have sex, they can’t see daylight and often they are skinned, scolded and cut alive.

It is so sad that 99% of meat comes from factory farms. It is so sad that we don’t care about living beings.

It matters how you treat animals in life and death. It has an effect on your body and your environment.

The three of us have made different choices on our eating habits. One of us is a semi vegetarian and the other two are vegan.

Animals are living beings and the lives they have right now aren’t worth living. It just isn’t fair.

Please care

Pretty Pickings- My guide to shopping

I just wanted to put up a post about shopping because I thought I’d try and inspire my friends and whoever else may read this. I feel really strongly about knowing where my clothes come from. I do shop on the high street but keep an eye out for the source. I know there are times when you can’t make sure your clothes are ethically sourced- so this post isn’t about telling people what to do! You need the high street for things like underwear or when you just want something new (I know the feeling). I just think we need to stop relying on the high street for a few reasons-

1. Things that are dirt cheap make me wonder what the person who made it is getting paid.

2. Things that are expensive (at say…topshop/matalan) make me wonder how much the person who made it is getting paid and how much the shareholders are getting.

3. It causes an unhealthy addiction to regular pointless shopping for things we DO NOT NEED. Sometimes you need to treat yourself. Sometimes.

4. Vintage and Charity shops are SO much fun (and you get to be unique blah blah)

                                  So it’s a mixture of things

Love of the old + hate of consumerism + can’t ignore the injustices

I’ve been shopping at vintage and charity shops since I started shopping for myself. I don’t know why but I have this attachment to the past…

At the same time when I was at university I was a huge shopaholic. Couple of the reasons for this are that; I had no friends so spent my time at the shopping centre, and I was under a lot of stress and literally relied on retail therapy. From 17-21 shopping was the only release/fun I had (apart from Twilight and Bridget Jones). I didn’t do music or see my friends a lot…. or even read much.

ANYWAY

So I became 21 and then 22 and then the Rana Plaza collapsed. I was sort of discussing it with a colleague who was just like me- The- we can’t do about it so lets just carry on as we are- attitude. Then this one person said what are you talking about…ofcourse you can do something…you’re so stupid (along those lines). It wasn’t that she herself cared about ethically sourced clothes, she just thought that our ‘helplessness’ was stupid. At first I was like what a cow but then i realised the reason I didn’t like what she said was because it’s true. From then I tried to find out if there was a way to go about this issue in abetter way and stayed a little complacent till I went to Primark one day and thought- the person who made this might have died in those horrible conditions. So that stopped me from going back.

While this was happening I was also going through a whole stop wasting your money phase. I had been budgeting for a while and used supermarket.com for toiletries and wouldn’t buy anything unless i absolutely needed or really wanted this (the way i figure this out is to see if i remember the item after a week). I also started to get into the habit of only buying one of each style of clothing (also sticking to one moisturiser and shampoo- lawls). I always try and get different shapes, styles and colours. It’s kind of a Gok Wan approach and I love it. It’s satisfying knowing you have loads of outfits without shopping too much.

When i go into a high street store seeing the MADE IN BRITAIN label makes me so excited. Finding a gem in a second hand shop makes me happy. Infact I’m the same with books. 90% of them are old and smelly. I can spend forever in a bookshop but I will go to ebay and buy it from someone who has already read it. Like i said I can’t explain why I like smelly old books and clothes….definitely about the time period but also the fact that these can be reused and last nearly forever.
The Pretty Pickings
So here are the pictures of my lovely finds. The places I visit most are
-Local charity shops
-Wood green charity shops
-Beyond Retro
-Rokit
-Ebay
And I visited COW once in Birmingham and bought a great skirt.
This is continued on another page as I couldn’t fit all my pictures in. I might upload more as I get them 🙂
So I just wanted to share this first. I think it’s one of the coolest things i have found. It was £1 at my local charity shop. I bought it when was 16 and it’s only been out on holiday twice. It has the initials E.W on the front and inside has thin red floral prints with the last owners address stuck on the back (same area as I live in). SO MUCH HISTORY and now I’ve added a trip to Leeds and Paris to it 🙂

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Another cool purchase is this wallet. I haven’t used it yet but I think its amazing. Just look at it.

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