“On 24 April 2013, 1133 people died in the Rana Plaza catastrophe in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A further 2500 were injured. They were killed while working for familiar fashion brands in one of the many ‘accidents’ that plague the garment industry.” – Fashion Revolution
Have you seen some of the following images throughout your social media feed over the past couple of weeks? Have you been asking: What do they mean? Why are they asking this question? How does this affect me?
The creation of a garment is a really complex one – one which many hands touch over a lengthy period of time. (I’ve written about this quite a bit before if interested – see here, here and here). I am self-taught in this industry. And before I did anything else – before I even assessed the potential for sorella to be any kind of success – I made a commitment that if I was going to do this, I would do it as ethically as possible. I knew very little about fashion from a technical perspective, but with my career in community development (including work in India and Vietnam where I was up-close with makers and artisans), I was pretty confident I knew more than most in the industry of the impact a garment can have on a human life, and what those human faces looked like:
Exploitation. Violence. Desperation. Poverty so thick it exists as a feeling – sitting heavy in your chest.
They remain in my vision each day I walk into my office. And every time I consider buying something new.
Each time a supplier increases prices for my inputs it’s quite often related to increased labor costs. It’s not often you would find a small business feel a sense of joy that their costs are increasing but for me, knowing this is related to the pockets of the workers that make my pieces makes me really happy. I’m providing an opportunity for them to work in a safe environment and one that awards them fair pay for their talents.
Unfortunately, as my accountant will attest, this isn’t really great for business. Unfortunately I continue to compete with brands who outsource their work to the cheapest possible avenues, resulting in larger margins to play with, and an ability to produce massive amounts of garments (Ouch! – I can hear the environment saying….); coupled with prices that are pushed to cost sale pricing within 6 weeks so as to turn over stock and make room for the next drop.
And while sorella is and always has been at a competitive price point to most Australian brands – it’s not entirely feasible to run your business with little or no margin (again, as my accountant keeps telling me….).
But I won’t be forced in to any other option to make our collection than ethically, so until consumers start to vote with their purchases and force these brands to reconsider their approach, I will never be able to shout you a (organic & fair trade) coffee if we caught up at a cafe. Sorry…
I also won’t pretend that we are perfect by any means. And I won’t pretend I haven’t hit and continue to hit many dead-ends when it comes to our supply chain – things like having confidence that our laces are dyed in-house and not sent to a sub-contractor where I have no idea of conditions. Or knowing whether our organic cotton drawstring bags aren’t screen printed in a facility where there is no air flow and workers are inhaling fumes. It takes time and commitment (and plane tickets) to see what’s really going on and as a one-woman-show, it’s simply not possible for me to do everything. But I am doing my best one battle at a time, with the resources available to me (i.e., using global certification systems and networks). And I will at any time pull an input that isn’t making sense to me or I am not getting the answers I need. I’ve done it before and I will continue to do it.
Design, quality, & striving for the most ethical option when we can. That’s sorella. It’s not rocket science. It’s just the right thing to do.
And this brings me to the concept around Fashion Revolution. Fashion Revolution forms a dedicated group within the international community to not only commemorate the lives lost that day in Rana Plaza, but to also provide a voice for those who remain vulnerable in an industry where exploitation and complacency is rampant. As part of the 2015 campaign, Designers & brands are asked to answer the simple question “Who Made my Clothes?”….
So here are just some the faces of sorella organics – beautiful & incredibly talented faces that I am so proud to be working along side to create our pieces for you:
FROM OUR FIJI TEAM:
FROM OUR AUSTRALIAN TEAM
There are lots of ways you can get involved too, just check out Fashion Revolutions website for more details! Fashion Revolution Day for 2015 is held on Friday 24th April.