We started the journey of whomademywardrobe.com with a focus on only buying clothes from companies where we knew that the workers at the final stage of production were treated fairly.
This was a natural starting point as our journey into this sector had emerged from seeing the tragedy of the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
Yet as we have learned more about the complications of the clothing supply chain, beyond just learning about working conditions in factories, it has become clearer that we need to be aware of the wider impact of our consumer decisions on individuals throughout the supply chain.
It has been fascinating and eye opening to learn more about the process of producing clothes before the fabric even reaches a production facility; the farming, the separation of the lint from the seeds (ginning), the spinning of the lint into yearn (spinning), getting the yarn woven into fabric (weaving), and the fabric being dyed (dyeing).
People are involved in every single stage and can either be treated fairly or not.
After even the briefest of looks into the cotton trade, it is clear that it is a sector with an abundance of human injustices. Not only does environmental damage caused by bad farming practices directly impact individuals today - as well as future generations - cotton production show us one of the clearest examples of slavery.
The history of cotton is both fascinating and complicated, but what is perhaps most alarming is that not only has there been shocking abuse in the past, but that rampant abuse exists today. A chillingly clear example was shown in the fact that just last year, the cotton harvest season in Uzbekistan saw hundreds of thousands of children and adults forced into slavery and servitude to pick cotton for western consumption.
In light of this we decided to source organic, locally produced cotton, where an independent third party has audited the treatment of workers. We have spoke previously about the challenges of certification and are aware of some of the imperfections of the “fair trade” system, but after site visits to a variety of cotton producers, we felt it wise to use Fairtrade certified organic cotton for our first purchase order.
Although clothing supply chains are complicated, the conclusion that we have reached is that in addition to our previous focus of ensuring that those involved in manufacturing were being treated in line with our values, we also need to ensure that those involved further down the supply chain are also treated fairly.
As we increase the number of products that we sell, and undertake more site visits, we will also be spending time profiling more of the workers involve in the production process before it reaches the factory.
We’ve signed a deal with the factory and paid for the materials they need. The next updates will focus on the factory production and the results of the 'next product' survey.