Over on Linkedin the conversation has been getting interesting thanks to a Leicestershire company named Britannia Garment Packaging. Their blog about ethically sourced clothing labels strikes a chord with me. The lack of care is what undermines our British industry. It is our insatiable appetite for bargains at any cost which keeps us firmly in our place.
The conversation inevitably turned to the younger generation of fashion fans. I believe the only way to tip the balance is through education and awareness. Of course, there will always be a chunk of the population who does not care. In the same way that many of us are unmoved by the plight of children in the third world or the homeless who we pass every day on the street. But that is the nature of the beast and there is only so much you can do.
I could post up endless photos of the horrific conditions faced by the people who make our high street clothing but would we be affected by it enough to change our shopping habits? Or wear the clothes we buy rather than throwing them away before they were worn through (if they lasted long enough to get that far).
And I am a firm believer that our lack of awareness of ethical issues in fashion is thanks to the clothing brands that thrive because of unethical practices and the media which takes a half hearted stand when it suits their readership.
But it’s not as if the information isn’t there to be found. Labour Behind The Label is a website dedicated to the plight of foreign factory workers making your clothes. If you are interested in what’s going on in the world, it’s a good place to start.
Of course the reality is that if workers are paid better and factory safety improved, prices will go up. That has knock on effects for British industry. But is it beneficial to the customer?
The reality is that costs will go up. This scares the Government because if prices go up it thinks people won’t shop. But will they? What if the money from the clothes you bought that were made in the UK stayed in the UK? Isn’t that how homegrown industries work? Isn’t that how a country protects its own?
Quick fix purchases are false economies. If you want to build a UK industry or at least have more consideration for those that sweat and toil overseas things have to change. And it has to start with how we shop, what we pay and how we look at what we buy and how it got to us in the first place.