Fashion industry unravelled: who made your clothes?

Tina Retief is a clothing and textiles specialist and an MBA graduate who is passionate about South Africa’s development. She is currently working in support of the local fashion industry.
Tina Retief is a clothing and textiles specialist and an MBA graduate who is passionate about South Africa’s development. She is currently working in support of the local fashion industry.

FRIDAY APRIL 24 2015 marks the second celebration of the global initiative Fashion Revolution, urging consumers to ask “who made my clothes?”.  

The campaign aims to appeal and empower consumers to question the origin of their clothes, in an effort to expose malpractice, improve the working conditions and provide transparency in light of the hands that put their products together.  

The notoriously labour intensive fashion industry has suffered several blows, with the collapse of a Bangladeshi factory, killing more than 1 100 people, injuring another 2 000 people on 24 April 2013.  

This disaster struck a cord, with Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro responding by launching the Fashion Revolution campaign in the UK. They challenged fair labour practices and a sweatshop culture present in Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing industry.   

Likewise, an accomplished South African fashion designer, and Elle new talent winner, Marize Malan started a campaign to raise awareness of the origin of your clothes. 

Marize launched her #thinktwice campaign in January 2015 urging consumers, and designers, to question the origin of their products before swiping.  

This designer-led initiative encourages consumers to buy local products, which fuels our local economy. It has an even bigger impact when buying South African-made goods through job creation and in support of our local creative and design talent.  

Tech offering fashion a helping hand

Recognising their responsibility as a brand, North American fashion retailer Indigenous decided to make use of technology to provide transparency of their supply chain by exposing consumers to their fair and ethical worker treatment in procuring their goods.

The Fair Trace Tool works by using a shoppers smart phone to scan a QR code featured on the garment’s label, giving consumers access to information on the source of their products and the people involved in producing it.

WATCH:

What can you do?  

Consumers can claim ignorance, cast a blind eye, or shift blame to brands or retailers using unethical sourcing practices to obtain their goods.

Alternatively, through smart campaigns like these and the power of consumer spending supporting brands with ethical sourcing practices, we can affect change to the nature of this industry. 

In turn, South African retailers can respond by working towards disclosing their ethical sourcing and provide transparency by revealing supply chains they are proud of.  

In support of local, buying South African produced products also need not be an impossible task, as SARS requires all products sold in SA to state the country of origin.

Although made in South Africa does not necessarily equate to fair labour practices, you are however supporting local industry, where stringent labour law enforcement practices are enforced.

South African fashion is made accessible nationwide by online retailer Spree, with a dedicated SA designer section, promoting South African fashion and local brands.  

VISIT: Spree's SA designer index
VISIT: Spree Boutique, an online collection of one-of-a-kind SA garments

Through support of our local fashion industry, you can affect our 24.3% adult unemployment figure and create or sustain jobs in this labour intensive industry.  

Lastly, you can join the Fashion Revolution movement on Friday by posting an image of a garment with the label exposed using a hashtag #whomademyclothes, adding the source information you have, or beg a brand the question, who made my clothes?   

Fashion Revolution in SA:

- Get involved
- Follow on Twitter
- Follow on Facebook

* Tina Retief is a clothing and textiles specialist and an MBA graduate who is passionate about South Africa’s development. She is currently working in support of the local fashion industry.

* Are you a small business owner in the fashion industry? Ask Tina Retief a question about how you can grow your business.

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