“Who are you wearing?” was the big question Sunday night on the Emmys red carpet. Those of us who were in our pajamas on the couch watching, who may never get their shining moment at a televised award show despite the fact that they would totally rock it, (I’m not bitter, I swear!) should actually still be asking each other that question. And no, I do not mean what designer or brand you are wearing, but whose labor and livelihood are you wearing. Because no matter what we may think or not know, the fact is, that often a lot of ugly things go into making that fashionable outfit we are wearing.
BBC journalist Richard Bilton took a trip to Bangladesh in order to investigate clothing factory conditions. On one particular day he got to the factory early in the morning, as workers began their shift at 7am. Bilton sits in his van outside the factory and sees the guard outside the doors leave after locking the door, locking the workers in the factory. The workers are not let out to leave until 2:30am. That is a 19 ½ hour shift. Bilton had the opportunity to talk to a worker, who admitted that for that 19 ½ hours of labor, he would receive about 2£ or $2.70.
This concept of factories overseas providing minimal wages and horrible conditions is certainly not a new one. Bilton, however, decided to further and find what the factory owners told clothing companies that wanted their product made in their facilities. In order to get truthful answers, he went to this factory, Ha Meem Sportswear, as a fake British clothing company’s owner. He takes a look around the factory, which is very cramped. He asks about hours, and the manger tells him it opens at 7:30 am and closes at 5:30pm Bilton is even shown their record books which are quite convincing. If Bilton didn’t know any better from last night, he would believe it.
Bilton visited other factories quite similar to Ha Meem Sportswear. At these places fires are common and have at times injured and killed many workers. While these factories employ thousands of workers, Bilton found that many clothing factories are modern and safer. While this is good progress, Bilton is concerned that sometimes the clothing companies using these factories have no idea of the working conditions in the factories.
If someone asked you, “who are you wearing?” would you really want to know?
If you knew that a certain brand or company used a factory like these in Bangladesh, would you still wear it?
Check out “Green America” to find out about specific companies, and see what kind of regulations they have in place in their clothing production. http://www.greenamerica.org/programs/responsibleshopper/index.cfm