As Retailers Distance Themselves, Who Gives a Hoot?

Is everyone just about ‘getting off cheaper’ and making the most profit possible, without any sense of where their cheaply made, half-witted sewn fashion comes from, and at whose expense it was produced?

With the dust still settling (literally) on the disastrous collapse of a Bangladesh clothing factory, many of the manufacturers utilizing that factory are quickly distancing themselves from involvement and denying responsibility. Amid this tragedy, however, retailers including WalMart and the GAP, recently did convene a meeting with a group of German activists and others to plan for improvements in the conditions of such factories. Even with this first attempt among retailers to ‘do something’ about the workers’ treacherous conditions, history shows that these big retailers have had years to react, and simply never did until their own mainstream media began to pay attention.

Bottom line is, it seems to take multiple deaths before the Western media give a hoot about the plight of impoverished, underprivileged, marginalized peoples. Truth remains that there’ve been over 220 fires in just a three-year period at these factories in Bangladesh, and we’re not even looking at statistics in other countries such as India, Pakistan or China, where many of the same sub-standard practices continue on behalf of our large retailers, our ‘throw away’ fashion experts in the West, and even the small-town boutique owners, who don’t consider the benefit of supporting local artisans and designers by carrying their hand-made wonders in those small quaint shops.

An important question remains. Are Western consumers willing to pay higher prices—‘fair trade’—prices, and reasonable amounts for quality, ethical fashion?

It comes down to those of us in the fashion industry who are willing to ‘take less’ profit to afford wonderful small designers and artisans a chance to display and sell their wares — and ‘get more’ money. The higher price would reflect what it actually costs them to produce quality clothing and accessories with quality fabrics that are often ethical in themselves (vegetable dyed, animal friendly, eco friendly, etc.).

It also comes down to consumers — Will they be able to recognize a ‘paradigm shift’ to conscience thinking, which is happening slowly but surely – and see that the bottom line is going to cost them a little bit more. But, the exchange will be quality, long-lasting fashion that wears for years to come and can be enjoyed for a long time.

If not, will the fallout effect be no jobs for those, in developing countries, who are willing to work? Or, will it give people no choice but to continue working for slave wages, producing sub-standard products for the ever-consuming Western buyer? Or will a new paradigm of thought create a shift in Eastern countries that can begin to raise wages for workers, create better working conditions, and spur production of high-quality fashion for the ethically-conscience-growing audience?  Hmmmmm.  Only time will tell.


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