With the recent devastating collapse of the garment factories in Bangladesh it has once again been brought to the public attention the sheer scale and reality facing thousands of garment workers operating in developing countries. As the death toll rises we face a sad reminder that the companies we buy the majority of our clothes, shoes and homewares from are putting the lives of their workers at huge risks in order to gain maximum profit. It is a stark and sad reminder that would do us well to take notice of.
There are calls for boycotts of unethical companies who refuse to sign up and enforce mandatory health and safety checks for the people who make their products. I disagree with the calls to boycott. As someone who has spent time with workers in poor rural communities in developing countries I can tell you now that the last thing they need is a boycott. We have to remember that these jobs are their livelihoods. Yes, the need to be healthy and safe and paid a fair wage. But boycotting isn’t the solution. Positive engagement is. We have to keep telling clothing companies what we want as consumers, petition them, speak up for the workers that cannot. There needs to be enough voices speaking up to make a positive change.
In the meantime, we can start to make small amendments to our shopping habits to make a difference to others, and the environment. We can choose to purchase items of clothing, shoes, bags, accessories, jewellery and homewares from ethically-minded companies. And before anyone yells that they are unaffordable to the average folk, check out a few of this rather awesome finds. All of these are priced at a competitive price to their less-ethical rivals. And they look rather rad, eh?
Saddle Bag – Bess Bags Fairtrade – £52
These bags are made using Fairtrade products.
Vegan Bow Flats – Melissa – £37.50 (were £50)
This item is proudly eco. Melissa shoes are made in Brazil, in a socially and environmentally responsible factory, where waste and water is recycled as much as possible. The shoes themselves are part recycled from old shoes, and recyclable and vegan.
Cotton Maxi Skirt – Folk Like Us – £25 (were £30)
Folk LIke Us is a fair trade label made in fair trade factories in Nepal.
Hand Painted Bowl – Nkuku – £6.50
These charming bowls look so pretty on display. Each one is hand painted by crafts people from Kashmir, providing employment for these skilled artisans in their own homes.
Quirky Tea Towels – Arthouse Meath – £6.50
Gorgeously quirky tea towel in different prints made by social enterprise art group Arthouse Meath. The unique prints are created by people with epilepsy and learning difficulties.
Men’s Cotton Cardigan – Skunkfunk – £67.50
SkunkFunk are a Spanish brand that use as many organic and sustainable materials and ethical practices as they can in the production for their clothes. They use sustainable materials such as Lyocell, Modal and Tencel as well as organic cottons and recycled polyesters.
Print T-shirt – Skunkfunk – £28
See above for the Skunkfunk details.
Fashion-Conscience is a really great site, kind of a marketplace, for eco-friendly and ethical clothes, accessories and homewares. You can find some affordable pieces along with gorgeous designer finds. It’s well worth making your next purchase from there knowing it will benefit many of the people involved in its production.