Remembering Bangladesh: 3 things you can do

On Thursday the world will remember one of the worse industrial accidents in history. Here are three ways you can mark the day to tell the fashion industry – never again.

Film still by Nathan Fitch

Can you remember what you were doing when you heard about the Rana Plaza building disaster in Bangladesh? Like often with these things, the full horror of what happened didn’t hit me until a while after.

Now the main horror is that despite so many lost lives, little seems to have changed.

Except we – the consumers – have. On the Guardian website many people said they’ve changed the way they think and buy clothes since Bangladesh. People power is stronger than its ever been. This is illustrated most with the number of activities taking place this Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the disaster. Here are three you can do to get involved.

Wear it #insideout
Get up, get dressed … but put your clothes on inside out. I haven’t gone mad – the initiative is from the good people at Fashion Revolution Day. The idea it to make a statement about knowing where your clothes are made: showing what’s on the inside of the fashion industry, not just what we see on the outside.

After you’ve dressed, take a picture of yourself, upload it to Instagram and tag it #insideout.

Join the Twitter vigil at 11am
At 11am there will be a Twitter vigil to remember those who lost their lives. Taking part is easy – just click the button below to send your tweet.

[Tweet “I will not forget and I will not give up until fashion changes. #RememberingBangladesh”]

>> Read our Twitter vigil Q&A

Join a lunch time protest outside Gap
A year on and Gap have still not signed the Bangladesh Health and Safety Accord to protect garment workers from future disasters. War on Want have organised a range of lunchtime protests outside Gap stores. Why not pop out on your break to one.

>> Find the nearest protest to you

And if you can’t do any of those things, join the 1% campaign demanding companies invest more in worker’s rights.

>> Sign the 1% campaign petition now

Join the Twitter vigil for Bangaldesh

At 11am on Thursday 24th April a Twitter vigil for the victims of the Bangladesh building disaster will take place. Join us.

Benetton-protest-by-War-on-Want

What is a Twitter vigil?
I don’t know, I just made it up.

What’s it all about?
I wanted to do something to remember those who died a year ago. This seemed one way to go about it, something we could all do together online.

How do I take part?
Simple – just click this button to tweet the message at 11am BST on Thursday 24th April.

[Tweet “I will not forget and I will not give up until fashion changes. #RememberingBangladesh”]

Will it change anything?
It’s intended only as a moment of solidarity with the people of Bangladesh. However, if you fancy making a nuisance of yourself with the brands who still haven’t signed the Bangladesh Health and Safety Accord or compensated the victims, you can use these tweets.

[Tweet “I will not forget. I will not give up until @gap act. #RememberingBangladesh”]

But I live in [insert name of place far away from UK] so in a different time zone. It will be the middle of the night where I am.
Use a tweet scheduler, such as Tweet Deck and Hootsuite. Or just organise your own 11am vigil with people in your own country.

Tweet you soon then
11am, Thursday 24th April – I’ll be there!

 

WARNING! This video will make you feel ashamed

One year on from the Bangladesh building disaster, the New York Times has released a devastating op-doc video by a photojournalist on the ground that fateful day.

Film still by Nathan Fitch

I simply don’t know how, in a post Bangladesh world, people can still shop in places like Gap and Walmart. Companies who a year on, still haven’t signed the Bangladesh Health and Safety Accord. And brands like Mango, who have signed, but still refused to compensate the victims.

An incredible, but upsetting, video by Nathan Fitch and Ismail Ferdous tells the story of what happened on the ground that day. It shows the faces of the victims – faces we should never, ever forget.

Almost most devastating of all, it shows the brands – companies on our High Streets, labels that sit in our wardrobes – amongst that rumble. I felt so ashamed watching it.

At times like these I feel so powerless. All I can do right now is ask you to join me at Thursday 24th April for a Twitter vigil for the victims of Bangladesh. Taking part is simple. At 11am (BST) simply click this button to tweet:

[Tweet “I will not forget and I will not give up until fashion changes. #RememberingBangladesh”]

Feel fee to tweet your message at Primark, Gap and Mango if you want them to know we will not stop until this is fixed.

I wish I could do more, but for now I hope you’ll join me.

>> Watch the film by Nathan Fitch and Ismail Ferdous

Warning: this video contains disturbing images that some people may find upsetting.

Photo: Still from the film by Fitch and Ferdous

#nomakeupselfie is a feminist campaign. Or is it?

Is your social media feed full of #nomakeupselfies? No make up, cancer, feminism. Yeah, what’s all that about then?

No Make Up Selfie

Take a selfie with no make up on and give money to a cancer charity.

Great, that sounds good…actually, hold on, what? What’s have those two things got to do with each other?

It’s a feminist campaign, challenging media portrayals of women. Plus its raising money for a good cause.

Right. How’s it doing that exactly? (the challenging portrayals of women bit I mean).

Women are putting themselves out there without make up on. Hundreds of thousands of people have done it.

OK, but I do that on a regular basis. Now you’re making me feel like the weirdo for not wearing make up.

But some of them look really rough. While others clearly look better without their make up. Check out these before and after shots

So we’re still basically judging women on how they look.

It’s maybe not a big deal for you, but for some women its really brave. The Fawcett Society conducted research which revealed that some women get up earlier than their partners so they could do their make-up before he woke up.

Yeah, that’s pretty worrying. But doesn’t pairing it with cancer make that “bravery” seem a little trivial?

It’s about people liberating themselves from make up.

So people go the rest of the day without make up too?

Well…um… I don’t know…

Possibly a fairly fleeting liberation.

It’s raised over a million in 24 hour for Cancer Research.

Great. And the feminists?

I take it you’re not going to join in then?

No, I’m game. Here’s my #shitmakeupselfie. I’ve given £5 to UK Feminista.

Shit Make Up Selfie

 

 

Stop shopping and overthrow capitalism, says this outspoken author

The fashion industry is “carpet bombing” the environment, disempowering women and has culture on corporate lock down. So says Tansy E. Hoskins, author of Stitched Up – The Anti-Capitalist Books of Fashion. We ask her to explain herself.

Stitched up by Tansy E Hoskins

Why did you write this book?
I wrote Stitched Up because I was looking for answers and couldn’t find them anywhere. I wanted to create a book that dealt with all the issues I was concerned about – from workers rights and the environment to racism and cultural appropriation.

How big are the fashion monopolies?
The fashion industry is ruled by gigantic monopolies owned by some of the richest people on the planet. For example, owner of H&M, Stefan Persson, has a fortune of approximately $26 billion, and Bernard Arnault, owner of luxury conglomerate LVMH, is worth approximately $41 billion. The fashion media is similarly monopolised with a handful of brands owning most magazines and even blogs. Whilst the industry pretends to be all about freedom of expression and individuality, actually we are experiencing culture on corporate lockdown.

How are garment workers fighting back?
The garment industry is constantly on the boil at the moment. The past month has seen dramatic protests by garment workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Haiti with strikes, rioting and factories set on fire. Global Trade Unions are working to win decent standards for garment workers for example with the Bangladesh Health and Safety Accord, and solidarity movements across the world are highlighting abuses of workers, animals and the environment.

What damage is fashion doing by allowing the cult of thinness to spread?
Models employed by the fashion industry have a body type shared by just 5 per cent of women in the US. If you are not born with that body type then there is nothing that you can do to achieve it. Yet the industry promotes a fake body ideal as something achievable. This is deeply dis-empowering. It leaves women feeling inadequate and spending large amounts of their time trying to alter their appearance. Women (and men) are denied happiness by constantly being told there is something wrong with them.

How environmentally damaging is the fashion industry?
In terms of environmental destruction, the fashion industry is carpet bombing our planet. One study showed that the Chinese textile industry is the third worst water-polluter out of the country’s 39 industries. Fashion is worse than other industries because it is a deregulated, subcontracted, trend-based industry that relies on selling billions of short-life units every season at a maximum profit. It sees natural resources like water as ‘free’ for it to use to maximise its profits, whereas the destruction of these crucial resources will be paid for at a terrifying price.

Why do you believe there are no ethical clothes for sale?
Under capitalism there are no clothes made without the exploitation of people and resources. People need to stop looking for individual solutions to this crisis – like looking for that one ‘perfect’ brand of clothing. Instead this issue needs to be tackled systemically. People are sometimes disappointed that I don’t recommend any brands but what is the point of making yourself feel good about your shopping choices when people and planet are still enslaved? Temporary disappointment is a small price to pay for taking part in the biggest challenge ever faced by humanity – the overthrow of capitalism.

Why do you think fashion would be different without capitalism?
I go into a lot of ideas for fairness, change and new aesthetics in the final chapter of Stitched Up – ‘Revolutionising Fashion’. One idea to think about however is what factories would look like if there were no owners or bosses. The 1,134 people who died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh were forced under threat to work in that factory that they knew was unsafe. Without capitalism, the owner of Rana Plaza would haven been working in the factory like everyone else and it would also have been his life at risk from criminal practices.

Socially organised production would also end over-production because no one, not reliant on wages, is going to vote to work 15 hour days seven days a week on an assembly line to produce a 20 billion pieces of clothing. The only people that need such vast quantities of clothing are the people that sell them at a profit – under collective ownership their role would have ceased.

Buy your copy of Stitched Up from our online book store today

What happens when you ask for a pay rise in Cambodia? These 23 found out

Last month 23 Cambodian’s were detained by police following a demonstration over low wages in the garment industry. Weeks later and they’re still not free.

Cambodian garment workers protest

In January, four people died and over 23 seriously injured when Police clashed with striking garment workers in Cambodia. Many more were arrested and weeks later are still being held, bail having been refused.

The textile workers were demanding a basic living wage. Cambodia has around 500,000 workers in the garment industry, which is a key source of national income.

Of the 23 arrested, only two have been released on bail. All face serious charges, despite many claiming to not have even been part of the demonstration. The 21 being held are at the CC3 jail, located in the Kampong Cham province in Phnom Penh, which is notorious for its harsh conditions.

The Clean Clothes Campaign are calling for the release of all the detainees, and all charges to be dropped. They said: “A wage you can live on was at the heart of the protests. It is a right everyone deserves and Clean Clothes Campaign will continue to support all garment workers in their struggles for a living wage.”

On Monday people around the world showed solidarity with the 23 with actions  outside Cambodian Embassies in Seoul, Brussels, Geneva, Washington D.C., Hong Kong, Berlin and Dhaka.

Photo: Clean Clothes Campaign

How to clean up a brand in 14 days, 6 cities and 10,000 tweets

Following an intense two week campaign by Greenpeace, Burberry agree to rid their clothes of toxic chemicals.

Burberry commit to detox

This week designer label Burberry committed to rid their children’s clothes of toxic Little Monsters, after 14 days of intense campaigning by Greenpeace.

The campaign involved a social media storm by concerned parents, fashionistas and activists, plus outraged mannequins storming out of their flagship store in London. Greenpeace volunteers in five other countries, from Beijing to Jakarta, the Netherlands and Mexico, visited Burberry stores, calling on the brand to clean up.

On their blog, Greenpeace said: “These commitments are proof that when people join together we can bring about real change.”

 

 

Gap win new award. For the worst company of the year

Gap have won a Public Eye award for the worst company of the year, following their failure to make factories safe in the wake of the Bangladesh disaster.

War on Want protest outside Gap

It might not be an award Gap are going to put on their reception desk too quickly, but “champagne corks” are popping elsewhere following the announcement they’ve been given the title of worst company of the year.

Last year Gap’s corporate social responsibility sunk to an all time low. Despite a number of investigations revealing Gap’s ties to toxic water pollution in China, Mexico and Indonesia, the company has repeatedly refused to take action to ensure our clothes are made without the use of hazardous chemicals.

They have also been accused of selling out worker’s rights in Bangladesh. After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 people, over 100 companies joined the Bangladesh Safety Accord.  But Gap refused to join this agreement. Instead they launched their own rival plan, which they call the “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety”.

While their plan sounds grand, labour rights experts argued the policy was simply more of the same corporate-dominated, voluntary measures that were proven to have failed in the Rana Plaza disaster.

War on Want said: “Gap has substituted a sham publicity strategy for workers’ rights and safety and leaves the lives of thousands of workers at risk. We will be keeping up the pressure to demand they respect the rights of the workers who make their clothes.”

On announcement of the award Greenpeace said: “Whilst the Detox campaign is calling for major clothing brands to create fashion without pollution, Greenpeace believe good labour conditions and environmental protection should go hand in hand. We welcome the news that Gap has been awarded the Public Eye Jury Award for its failure to bring about much needed reform in the textile industry following the Rana Plaza disaster.”

Photo: War on Want

 

 

Burberry mannequins walk out of UK flagship store in toxics protest

Rogue mannequins were spotted walking out of Burberry in protest over the toxics in children’s clothing. Will the company now listen?

Greenpeace activists at Burberry store

A group of rogue mannequins grew sick of modelling Burberry’s toxic clothes and walked out of their London flagship store in protest.

Burberry are accused by Greenpeace of harbouring “little monsters” in their clothing, which could be harmful to people and the environment. Already this week thousands of concerned shoppers took to Twitter and Facebook to demand the global fashion brand clean up.

Greenpeace activists at Burberry storeA Burberry shirt modelled by Romeo Beckham is one of the items Greenpeace tested and found toxics in. Greenpeace says they’re not dangerous in the short term, but long term exposure is unclear. It is also creating huge pollution problems in Chinese rivers that are close the factories where the clothes are made.

In a statement to the Daily Mail, Burberry said: “The safety and welfare of our customers is paramount and Burberry complies with all international environmental and safety standards. Burberry products do not pose a danger to customers.”

Greenpeace activists at Burberry store

Greenpeace responded by saying: “Until the textile industry detox and switch to safer chemicals, we’ll all be exposed to these hazardous substances. Whether you are a child from a poor background living downstream from the factories in Asia or Africa, or the wearer of a £175 shirt, all are impacted.

“The Greenpeace Detox campaign has been working with major fashion labels to solve this problem. We want to help Burberry become a real market leader by joining  the forward-thinking brands already committed to being part of the solution.”

 

When Burberry failed to Detox this is what happened on Twitter

When Greenpeace accused Burberry of harbouring dangerous toxins in their clothing, they failed to act. Twitter really wasn’t impressed.

Burberry please detoxLast week Greenpeace released a report claiming many a vast array of major brands had dangerous toxins in their clothing.

Among that number was Burberry, who since the announcement have failed to take any decisive action. When word got out on Twitter about this, folks were none too happy. In just 24 hours nearly 5000 people tweeted at Burberry to clean up their act. I think you can say Burberry had something of a bad news day.

The action doesn’t stop there either. Activists, fashionistas and concerned parents today are taking to Facebook to vent their frustration with this super brand.

If you want to join them, here’s how:

  1. Go to Burberry’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/burberry
  2. Choose one of their posts
  3. Leave a comment asking Burberry to Detox now and stop using hazardous Little Monsters to make our clothes
  4. Be sure to include this link in your comment: www.greenpeace.org/littlemonsters

Thanks to global people power, major fashion labels like Zara have already committed to Detox. We can make Burberry do the right thing to.

Photo: Greenpeace