Who made your clothes?
I'm not sure, but I can definitely tell who made ours.
Fashion Revolution Day is today. April 24th. Also the anniversary of the Rana Factory disaster in Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 people, mostly women.
Fashion Revolution Day was started to bring awareness to the true cost of fast fashion.
If you're a friend, customer, fan, follower of us, you'll know we are 100% Made in Canada. And proudly so.
We are among the minority. The less than 10% of clothing made in Canada, consumed in Canada types.
With the exception of a few larger Montreal brands, there are not many mega brands producing onshore. Mostly, it's small, independent brands that don't get the recognition or support from the government, or consumers that they should in my opinion.
Offshore production doesn't necessarily equal human rights issues, but it can.
The Rana Factory collapse is an example of the complete detachment and accountability that many large fashion brands have in their supply chain, coupled with lack of transparency.
Weeks after the disaster, major fashion brands were trying to figure out if their clothing was being made in that factory.
The popular Canadian brand, Joe Fresh was there. Photos at the scene of the Rana Factory collapse showed upcoming Joe Fresh collections, splashed with blood of fallen workers.
The reality is that $10 t-shirt costs ways more.
I've conversed with consumers at shows who when they hear our prices think they are ridiculous. Well, they aren't. Really.
In Canada, the average apparel worker is paid between $13-$20/hour. In Bangladesh, it's $0.38/hour approximately (though they just approved an increase).
Sure, we could charge less, but we'd be out of business fairly quickly. The fast fashion gurus, H&M, Forever 21 etc. have trained consumers on the disposability of fashion, as well as the expectation that everything should cost less.
We're lucky to have a set of fierce advocates. Our customers. They get it. They love our clothing and scream it from the rooftops.
The solution to fixing this fast fashion problem in my opinion is two-fold. And, it's not easy.
One, in markets like North America where largely production has moved off shore, cultivating on-shore production. Not only because designers can actually walk the floors and make sure the workers are treated properly, but also because it enables us to be more agile in production, and produce lower batches. This more mindful production cycle, pushes that mentality of 'clear outs' out the door.
As well, cultivating the apparel manufacturing industry onshore keeps valuable skills in the marketplace.
Our production capacity is stretched right now, and finding another Toronto or even Eastern Canada based apparel sew shop is near impossible. Most of them have shut down due to brands like Roots, Nike, Adidas moving offshore. They can't afford to keep the lights on, even with emerging designers like us, and others producing there.
Second, in developing markets, have big brands producing their take accountability for working with the government to improve labour conditions, and investing in sustainable training programs, and initiatives to support a hand up.
Bring transparency to the forefront. Make fashion brands accountable on hang tags, for rating the conditions workers are operating in on the tag. Put a rating system together.
This also means big brands need to spend money on doing good, and permanently place people in these markets to oversee production, not visit once a quarter.
I pop in on my production place downtown Toronto ALL THE TIME. Most days they leave by 4:30pm, and are always in good spirits, laughing and really enjoying their craft.
So in summary, what you can do to help:
- Follow Fashion Revolution on Twitter and retweet their updates today
- Turn your clothing #insideout today and show your labels
- Ask before you buy, who made this shirt. Read the label. Support ethically-made clothing.
- Do more with less. Stop buying things you don't need, and invest in quality, ethically-made apparel.
Chief Fashionpreneur, encircled