After creating my second clothing collection, I remember a woman approaching me about purchasing a top, and she said – so how is it made?
I explained to her that I make the clothing I sell. She was amazed; she said “wait you make all the clothing?” I said “yes, and every item you wear is made by someone.” She was perplexed, she couldn’t grasp the full concept of a person at a sewing machine making the garments in her closet.
At the time, I laughed about it, and later I thought her comments and thought process were probably more common in a time when fast fashion and mass consumption of clothing makes it hard to understand how clothing is made. So many people see the sewing machine and the jobs of a seamstress, tailor and garment worker as jobs of the past, but they are very much jobs of today, especially in a time when fashion brands are producing so much clothing at such a fast rate.
In many cases, garment workers in other countries are subjected to difficult work environments- ranging from unsafe work conditions, exposure to toxins, and overcrowding of work areas to name a few. Beyond environmental conditions there is also the issue of low wages and no set work hours. These issues were brought to a blaring reality when the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh occurred in 2013. This collapse led to the loss of more than 1,100 garment factory workers.
On April 24, 2013 the Rana Plaza Factory collapsed. The world heard of the tragedy and was shocked, but upon further investigation the collapse was a result of the factory owners disregard for the thousands of people who worked for him. Rana Plaza factory was in violation of multiple building codes; including building illegal upper floors to provide more work space, and installing large generators to aid with the frequent loss of power. The generators were added to the illegal upper floors and caused the full building to shake when they turned on. On April 23, 2013 cracks were reported in the building and a building inspector deemed the building unsafe.
Aware that the building was unsafe the factory owner, Sohel Rana, ordered workers to continue into the building and report to work the next morning. When one of the generators switched on that day, the building began to shake and collapse. Some survivors described the moment like being in an earthquake- the floor beneath them began to shake and fall apart as cement pillars collapsed around them.
This tragedy, which we remember yearly during the week of April 24th , has sparked a global initiative called Fashion Revolution.
Fashion Revolution is an organization that calls upon anyone interested in knowing more about the production end of the fashion industry to get involved and start to ask questions about who made your clothes. How are the workers treated? What environments do they work in? How much are they paid? Fashion Revolution encourages both event and online participation in hopes that your curiosity sparks change.
If you would like to participate or learn more about Fashion Revolution visit: fashionrevolution.org