A hundred years ago, a clothing factory in New York City’s thriving garment district caught on fire. Young Chinese and Jewish women trapped inside the factory’s locked doors tried valiantly to get out, hurtling themselves against the iron bars. 146 of them died that day at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.
On April 24th, 2013, a similarly tragic scene unfolded at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. A factory complex collapsed killing 1,134 makers.
The images from these two horrific industrial disasters are startlingly similar – young women, who labored long hard hours to make a honest living, meeting a terrible, untimely, and senseless death. It seems we have learned nothing in a hundred years.
The story of our clothes is tied to the lives of these young women. In our quest for cheap, fast, and disposable fashion, we have brands chasing prices around the world and manufacturers setting up factories where wages are low – Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar – to bring a flow of cheap throwaway fashion back to us.
We need to think about where our fashion comes from.
Today, supply chains are vast and spread out. Cotton is turned to fabric in Pakistan, cut and sewn in China with buttons and zips flying in from Germany. All put together and shipped back as a cheap, on-trend blouse in the United States.
And we are disconnected.
The designer thinking about the blouse is disconnected from the sourcing exec who is worried about the price and quality and is even further removed from the young women sitting in Haiti or Pakistan stitching a collar. By the time we get the blouse, we have no connection whatsoever to the hundred pairs of hands that have touched it along the way. We have no idea how much human effort has gone into that $15 top.
Yet our shopping behavior has a very direct connection to the makers.
When we hunt for rock bottom prices, we signal that it is ok to squeeze her wages.
When we seek disposable trends, we are saying its ok to make her work a late night shift to change that color on the button, and be harassed as she walks home in the dark.
When we don’t ask about the makers, the supply chain assumes we don’t care.
And so the lives of the people behind our fashion remains precarious a 100 years later. At Remake we are focused on rebuilding these broken links in global supply chains. We want you to hear, see and meet the women who bring our fashion to life.
Our learning journeys take next generation designer to meet the makers. We bring our films and stories in fashion school classrooms to seed a generation of more conscious designers. And we hope this platform inspires shoppers to use our collective voice and dollars to buy better and #wearourvalues.
Together we can change this 100 year old story.
Won’t you join us to #remakeourworld?