Fashion Factfiles #4: WHERE DO YOUR DONATED CLOTHES REALLY GO?

Hey guys, another Fashion Factfiles post!

This month, I’m changing it up a bit. We won’t be looking at issues within the production of garments themselves, but rather what happens to much of our clothing once we’re done with them and have donated it to charity.

Oh you thought they’d all be sold and bought by people to reuse?

Not exactly.

Welcome to another episode of: Calling out the West and its neo-colonial practices!

Continue reading “Fashion Factfiles #4: WHERE DO YOUR DONATED CLOTHES REALLY GO?”

The Shy Activists- FASHION REVOLUTION

We are nearly at the end of Fashion Revolution Week but Fashion Revolution runs all year long.

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Photography by Rahul Talukder

At the beginning of Fashion Revolution Week Mayisha shared her thoughts and what many of us who see through consumerism feel- “We are all unwillingly complicit in this cycle of exploitation, through a system called ‘fast fashion.” We wear the clothes, we buy the clothes, we ask for them.

Since Rana Plaza collapsed “1,137 have been confirmed dead, with over 200 remaining missing. Tales of workers trapped in the rubble with no choice but to saw their own limbs off to escape, of workers trapped within the collapse for days without food or water, surrounded by dead bodies. Of the families who had to identify their deceased family members, only to find that the bodies had been so deformed by the collapse they were almost  unrecognisable. The suffering of the injured workers who are no longer physically capable of working, plummeting them into further poverty. The orphans who lost either one or both parents. The workers who survived, but must face on going psychological torment, as they return to work in the garment factories.”

Mayisha covers how although there is an improvement, things still haven’t massively improved, and that we can try to make a difference by pressuring our favourite brands to make a change. 

Here’s a link to her blog which is a must read.

WHO MADE MY CLOTHES

Who made my clothes is a campaign to look past the clothes, past the label to the person behind the finished product. Supporters of the campaign taken photos of their item of clothing with the label showing to ask the brand on a social platform- who made their clothes.

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Change is at your fingertips

Although there are many ways to lead a more ethical life in terms of fashion such as:

  • swapshops
  • upcycling
  • recycling
  • ethical shopping

We mustn’t forget the plight of garment workers and the issues they face everyday. Mayisha covers a lot of the terrible conditions that garment workers suffer for example, Bangladeshi garment workers earn the lowest minimum wage in the world and it is nowhere near the living wage. 

We have to show that we are in solidarity with garment workers and we have to hold companies accountable. We also have to hold ourselves accountable. Where there is demand there is supply. Let’s demand transparent and fair supply.

Islam teaches us that “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”

Many of us have the power to use our voice and therefore have the responsibility to do so.

One of the easiest ways that you can put pressure on brands is by tweeting them. Fashion Revolution have helpfully made a template for twitter- 

I’m , and I want to thank the people who made my . Hi @[brand], #whomademyclothes? via @Fash_Rev.

Islam teaches that the condition of the people won’t change until the people change. I think this is a really valuable and important message. We shouldn’t expect things to change on their own. 

We should shoulder the responsibility of making the change happen. 

As Mayisha stated in her post, that although she is unsure about how to change the industry she is sure that we need to make our voice heard.

Sources and further reading

http://fashionrevolution.org/get-involved/ways-for-everyone-to-get-involved/

http://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/rana-plaza-fourth-anniversary-fashion-revolution-week

http://www.thestar.co.uk/business/sheffield-store-gets-behind-ethical-fashion-revolution-1-8517624

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/style/9-ways-master-eco-conscious-sustainable-dressing-stay-stylish/

https://standup4islam.wordpress.com/2012/12/25/when-you-see-a-wrong-change-it-with-your-hand/

http://ohsoethical.tumblr.com/post/159933245193/fourth-anniversary-of-the-rana-plaza-collapse-my

The Shy Activist- Is donating clothes to charity helpful?

If you have followed Oh So Ethical for a while you’ll know we hold swapshops now and then. One thing that really bugs me is when people think they can just donate clothes to us rather than actually take part in the swapping. 

Today’s post is about donating clothes and the affect it has on other countries.

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Many people want to donate clothes to charity that they’ve only worn a couple times or never even worn once. 30% of clothing in the average wardrobe doesn’t get worn according to research by Wrap. £140 million worth of clothes go to landfills every year in the UK and of the clothes donated to charity shops only 10-30% is sold in the UK. The rest is sold on to developing countries and then sold in their markets. This is how charities make money from unsold second hand clothes.

So if 81% of clothing purchases in developing countries are second hand clothes what does it mean for their own textile and garment industry?

  • Research by Andrew Brookes (lecturer in development geography) has found that this has led to an 80% fall in textile and clothing employment.
  • Second hand clothes are cheaper to buy than new clothes but even then they are still unaffordable
  • Stall holders do not have a choice in their stock so it is a risky business 
  • Foreign clothes do not match the traditional cultural needs
  • It makes developing countries dependant on the west, preventing them from progressing

So how did this happen?

Although developing countries planned to produce their own goods after colonialism, they have a huge debt to repay to the West, and therefore have had to relax the barriers of trade which had protected factories. Once they were open to imports their second hand industry boomed and their own industries failed and jobs were lost.

“One of the sad ironies of today’s globalised economy is that many cotton farmers and ex-factory workers in countries such as Zambia are now too poor to afford any clothes other than imported second-hand ones from the west, whereas 30 or 40 years ago they could buy locally produced new clothes.”

In 2016 countries in East Africa announced a plan to ban imports of second-hand clothes by 2019. The affect of this will be negative for those who rely on this industry for their income but it will give a chance of their own textile industry and economy to improve. It will give them a chance to develop and reduce their dependancy on the West.

So next time you want to get rid of your clothes consider the consequences.

And next time you want to buy something consider the consequences.

Swapshops are a great way to extend the life of clothes in a conscious way. We should take responsibility of our waste rather than dump it at someone else’s doorstep.

Fair Favourites

This week Fair Favourites are Maison Bengal. I first spotted these bags at Ganesha in Southbank and then the V&A.

“Maison Bengal was set-up in 2004 in order to help fight poverty in Bangladesh, working particularly with mothers and young women.
We work very closely with three fair trade organisations in country, each one best placed to identify the most marginalised communities in their area and provide training in handicraft production. Maison Bengal works with each group separately to utilise their locally grown natural materials and develop their renowned traditional skills. “

Small round jute macrame bag

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Hand woven jute bag

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Jute macrame shopping bag

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I found my information here:

http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/VoC%20FINAL%20online%202012%2007%2011.pdf#page=2

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30227025

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2015/feb/13/second-hand-clothes-charity-donations-africa

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/06/second-hand-clothing-donations-kenya

http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/EA-states-join-hands-to-ban-importation-of-used-clothes–cars/-/2558/2634876/-/nemwm8z/-/index.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35706427

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/these-african-countries-dont-want-your-used-clothing-anymore_us_57cf19bce4b06a74c9f10dd6

Soomaiya Saturday- 50 Wears

I think I’m a creature of habit and this shows with my choice of clothes, especially on special occasions.

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I know what colours work for me and I prefer to wear things I know look fine. At uni I was a shopaholic (I explained in an earlier post I had no friends and this was genuinely therapy for me). I was endlessly trying every kind of style of fashion to look good. I never looked good. I seriously looked like an idiot wearing colours and clothes that just didn’t suit me. And I never felt comfortable.

50 wears- Getting the wear out of something

One thing I realised is that it’s best for me to stick with what I know when it comes to fashion. Wearing something comfortable is good for someone who has social anxiety and can feel out of sorts in their own skin. Wearing something safe is one less thing to worry about!

When I go to weddings I feel exceptionally out of sorts. For some reason I hate dressing up for weddings. It makes me feel really self conscious. But an outfit I have worn a lot is a lengha (top and skirt asian outfit) to weddings. I don’t experiment much at weddings because I love this outfit SO much. My mum bought it for me when I was 10 years old (a cultural thing where you buy something way too big so it can be worn forever. I’ve worn it to countless weddings because I just can’t go wrong with it. To me this is a perfect example of a really good buy- timeless. Here are a couple of photos of me wearing it:

When I was 18

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When I was 23

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Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of me wearing it when I was 10 but I pretty much looked like I do now >.<

Another outfit that I have worn many times is a salwar kameez I bought about 6 years ago to match all my cousins at a wedding. 

The first time I wore it at 19 (sorry for the teeny picture)

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Wearing it when I was 23

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and wearing it last year

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I love outfits that I wear a lot and really use. It’s very satisfying knowing that an outfit can be worn for different kinds of occasions and that I can never look bad in it.

Recently I went to Aasha charity shop because they sell asian clothes. I had to get something new for my cousins wedding because the theme was blue, I had no blue asian outfits. I got an outfit and although I think it’s really beautiful, blue really isn’t my colour. I hate having something in my wardrobe that I won’t want to wear in the future! I wish I could have just borrowed an outfit from someone!

I will do a post about my usual everyday outfits soon. I have too many clothes! I have a draw of dresses and I never open this draw because I never wear dresses. There are shirts and jumpers that I don’t often choose to wear. How do we get so attached to things that we don’t use?

I will try to choose some clothes to give to the swapshop we are holding today. I will try to depart with things that just take up space and I will not give 50 wears to. Maybe someone else can give it 50 wears!

Soomaiya Saturday- My Search for Ethical Jeans

 I need new black jeans! Here’s what I found when I did a quick search online.

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Monkee Genes

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This company really appeals to me because they just take the words out of my mouth. Have a read of their about section: https://www.monkeegenes.com/about/ where they use “carefully sourced fabrics made by people who care because they are being cared for!” and how they’re “Disillusioned with Primark and other disposable high street fashion, the Monkee Genes team decided to raise public consciousness”. They also have an outlet store where everything is 10% off http://www.monkeegenesoutlet.com

Boden

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Biden have a lovely selection of jeans. I think my favourite is the velvet navy :). Read about their ethical policy here- http://www.boden.co.uk/en-gb/help/our-ethical-policy where they state they are part of the Ethical Trading Initiative, are transparent about where their clothes are made, and talk about the different charities and initiative’s they are part of including the the HERproject which aims to “increase knowledge, improve behaviour and provide wider access to critical health services for women working in factories.”

Nomads clothing

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This is a fair trade company and although they don’t have black skinnies they do have a nice range of trousers. Read their ethical and fair trade clothing page http://www.nomadsclothing.com/fair-trade-clothing to see their policy about the environment and how to treat workers which includes policies such as “No children under the age of 16 make our products.
Paying a fair wage to workers that is either at or above the national average. Paying producers in advance so that they do not go into debt buying materials.” These might sound like basic things to us but in the garment industry workers often don’t have these rights. 

Braintree Clothing

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Braintree clothing is another company that didn’t have black jeans but I love the clothes they have available. Read about the sustainable fabric and how they ensure to have thoughtful supply on their Our Story page- http://www.braintreeclothing.com/our-thoughtful-way “From the fabrics we use to how our garments are designed, made and delivered, each step of our collection’s journey is carefully considered and done so ethically.”

I’ve only focused on jeans on this post because I really need a new pair. I don’t LOVE shopping so I mainly do it when I really need something. However, I would recommend that you browse the websites because you’re sure to find that they sell the loveliest clothes that I think are reasonably priced. And the best thing? You’d be contributing to a better world. It doesn’t take long to find the ethical alternative. It just takes a quick google search 🙂

Fashion Friday’s – Fashion Revolution and After Rana Plaza

Fashion Revolution and After Rana Plaza

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Friday’s
are usually for faves but now they’ll be for Fashion! Don’t worry, we’ll still
deliver our reviews on our favourites at the end of every month!

Today’s Fashion Friday is all about The Fashion
Revolution
. This organisation asks the big question “Who
Made My Clothes?”

Like
OSE, The Fashion Revolution was influenced by the Rana Plaza story in
Bangladesh.

‘On
24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,133 people died
and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial
disaster in history. That’s when Fashion Revolution was born.’

All
three of us OSE girls are Bengali and we feel strongly about fair working
conditions. Fashion Rev believe in ‘an industry that values people, the
environment, creativity and profit in equal measure.’

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Which
perfectly explains the beliefs we share about fashion. The deaths of people who
were earning a living by mass producing clothes in harmful environments for us
in the West to pay for cheaply and dispose of unethically.

The after effects of Rana Plaza are still strong and
you can learn about this more on After Rana Plaza – https://instagram.com/afterranaplaza/  This project showcases the heart
breaking stories of people who have lost everything for us to get that next day
delivery skirt from H&M. These stories epitomise the importance of slowing
down the fashion industry.

Audio
Subtitles: “when she finished her work I always went to pick her from there.i
waited on the ground floor while she finished working. When she did overtime I
always waited for her there”, Samina Begum’s daughter Shahena lost her life in
Rana plaza tragedy. Nostalgia is the only gateway that can take her to Shahena

https://instagram.com/p/9bgvT0Qwss/?taken-by=afterranaplaza

‘Global
consumers had to consider the consequences of their actions for the first time.
What is the cost we are paying for our fashion—our appetite for trends and
cheap clothes? Do people actually realize whose life is behind the clothes they
wear? We must consider, what are the outcomes of this supply and demand, of
people’s lives involved, within the grand system of consumerism? Who is
winning? And, who is losing?’ – http://www.afterranaplaza.com/about/

A
key goal of The Fashion Revolution is to get everyone to work together, this
will result in a lot more transparency. Every detail of clothing has a source,
the colour/dye, the thread, scissors, sewing machines, electricity, hot glue,
plastic buttons and so much more. Every aspect of the clothing industry has the
potential to harm social and environmental factors. This is why transparency is
so significant. If a large clothing manufacturer knew the origin of not just a
dress, but that dress material, dye, buttons and zips, the industry would be so
much more cautious. We need to educate people and get them to want to educate themselves
about where they are sourcing their products.

The
True Cost is a documentary about the fashion industry, in the documentary I
learn that a group of workers were attacked for asking for a living wage and
better working conditions. It broke my heart. I don’t want to support and
industry that is ok with or oblivious to this awful treatment. This is why the
FashionRev movement is so vital in our so called ‘modern’ society.

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These
are tips from The Fashion Revolution for businesses in the fashion industry –

Here
are some ways that companies can demonstrate their commitment to transparency:

1.      
Showcase positive examples of brand/producer relationships.

2.       Make one
product transparent. Companies could do this through tools like ProvenanceCaretrace or
QR codes.

3.       Make at least
one supply chain transparent. Companies could do this through tools like String , Sourcemap or Cotton Connect.

4.      
Map out all your suppliers.

5.      
Document this in an internal database, at least your company knows itself.

6.      
Publish all your suppliers publicly.

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Let’s
find out WHO MADE OUR CLOTHES.

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.

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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