Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where things are made, and who has made them. There was a BBC documentary on last night about the people who make Primark’s clothes – I’ve not watched it yet (I’ve recorded it) but have been reading about it over at the Beeb. Much discussion has been provoked by this article, and there’s certainly a lot to think about.
I don’t know where this leaves me: I don’t own any clothes from Primark (I have always been aware that if a t-shirt costs £4, that means someone somewhere down the line is not being paid very much). But at the same time, I can’t be certain that the clothes I do buy are made by people who are treated fairly and have a safe working environment. Just because I’ve paid £30 rather than £4 for a garment doesn’t mean that extra money has been passed down the line to the people who worked hard to design and make it.
I did a bit of digging today on the websites of companies whose clothes I buy fairly regularly, and found out a bit of information, albeit not quite as much as I was hoping for. White Stuff don’t have any information about how their products are made (though they do seem to have a corporate social responsibility programme, which is positive). Kew say they use factories in the UK, Europe and Hong Kong. Great Plains don’t seem to have anything to say on the subject, while Oasis have an ethical sourcing policy. And Next have an encouragingly detailed set of pages on their ethical trading policy.
This information has at least reassured me that it’s not all bad news, but I don’t know what the situation would have been like if I’d tried to find this information on the websites of the pile it high sell it cheap clothing stores.
There’s plenty more I can do to make sure the person who makes my clothes gets a decent working environment: make the clothes myself. Over the weekend I was cutting out pattern pieces for a skirt I’m about to make, thinking about how this skirt, like others I’ve made, will be made in England. I hadn’t really thought about that side of things before: it’s not just that I will have made my own skirt, it’s that I will know it has been made by someone who gets paid a decent wage (albeit not for making skirts).
But there is a downside to this: I am very picky about the fit of clothes I wear, and I’m not convinced my sewing skills quite measure up… And it’s not unknown for me to get cross and stamp my feet when the things I’ve made do not resemble the wonders I had imagined. So I’m posting here these two blog posts I read today as a reminder to myself that it happens to us all, we all make mistakes, make hideous things – and then we move on:
2. Florence made a skirt so disappointing she’s not even going to show us – but it sounds like she’s getting over her setback already.