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Who Made My Clothes?

factory work

This week a less fun, but important topic to talk about: people. Not that I don’t think people are fun, because I spend most of my days around people, but because there are a lot of people that are being taken advantage of in order to create the clothes we wear. That is a bad thing that deserves more attention, so here we are!

What’s going on?
You may have heard of the horror stories that happen (mostly) in Asia, when it comes to clothing. Buildings collapsing, child labor, bad labor practices, the clothing industry has caused some of the worst conditions for its millions of workers in de past decades. These things happen mainly in countries where labor costs are low and where regulations are as tight as my dance moves (which are anything but tight).

The process of making fabric itself is usually not labor intensive, but the cutting & sewing of that fabric into pieces of clothing is. That last part is also where you can find the so-called ‘sweatshops’, and the place where the above-mentioned atrocities happen. The supply chains of clothing are so vast, that it’s hard for companies to keep track of their products as they are made, and thus almost impossible for us, the customers, to know what’s going on in this black box. That’s sad because we do have the power to change it, and one way of doing that is by getting to know the people:

Do they have kids? What are their dreams? What do they like most about creating clothing? These are questions we rarely ask but would help us in tremendous ways to get more respect for our clothing and the effort that has been put into them.

who made my clothes

But what about mass production?
Hold on there Erik ... there are always people physically working on my clothing, no matter the price of the clothing? Yeah, I had that same thought when I was first reading about. I seriously thought that only high-end brands like Louis Vuitton were made by hand and that the mass-produced clothing we bought was made by robots (silly me). The first time when it really got to me was when I watched the documentary The True Costwhich is a must watch by the way, and got me convinced that we need to change this.

So who made my clothing?
If you are lucky, your favourite brands are working to creating a more transparent supply chain, in which case they usually have something about the production process and the people involved on their website. If you’re not as lucky it’s harder to know who actually made your clothes.

There are some awesome initiatives like the Fashion Revolution, which has done some great efforts to create more awareness about the people behind the clothing we wear.

Another cool Dutch initiative that’s currently in the build-up phase is Tailored-by, which aims to tell the stories of the people behind the clothing and give you a better connection with the makers by letting you tip them through their platform. Of course, we think they are extra cool because we are part our their pilot project, which we can tell you more about soon ;).

I sincerely hope that initiatives like this will help customers understand what’s going on and convince companies that it can be done differently.

What can I do?
Most companies who do pay attention to who works on their clothing will have it mentioned on their website. Unless they know what bad labour practices are going on of course. If you can’t find it anywhere, you can email your favourite brands and ask them if they can tell you more about the people that make the clothing. The more we as consumers ask these questions to brands, the more likely that someone someday will bring it up within the company. Let's change the industry together!

Enjoy your weekend and we'll see you next week!