Do you want to know who made your clothes?
We love telling stories about the people and the hands that are behind the brands in the Impossible shop and want people to know who makes what, how it is made, and what impact a product has on another person’s life as well as yours!
Nowadays though, the hands that make our clothing are largely anonymous. The label inside a shirt tells us: where it was made, what it is made of and perhaps what temperature we should set our washing machine to when washing the item. But nothing of who made it.
In the race to meet demand for throwaway t-shirts, high street stores have been lowering work standards and wages for the workers powering the production process. And so when the consumer delights in low price wares, it can be at the cost of others.
Clothes that line the shelves of high street stores like Topshop, Burberry, and Asos are made overseas, commonly in China, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Turkey where labour is cheap and conditions are difficult to monitor.
Bangladesh is notorious for employing workers under dangerous conditions, and we only learn people’s stories when something tragic happens. Like Sagar Barman who was introduced to the public only after he died of internal injuries due to maltreatment in a Bangladeshi factory at the age of 9.
H&M and Next admitted having child labourers in their supplier factories in Turkey, the Independent reported in February this year, and it is thought that exploitation of Syrian workers in factories could be a more widespread phenomenon.
Some companies and brands claim that it is difficult to stamp out abuses in far away places but British factories are also guilty of substandard working conditions for textile makers. 75-90% of workers employed in the East Midlands garment industry are paid £3 per hour, alleges a report released in 2015 by the University of Leicester. This is less than half of the legal minimum wage, and way off the UK living wage.
But fashion and clothes can be a source of good for people around the world. Take Bangladesh - alongside the tragedies, the garment industry has helped bring about societal change in areas like gender equity and healthcare. We want to make sure that what we wear is powering social progress and not decay. Part of this is making the makers visible, not anonymous.
At the Impossible Shop, you can read the incredible stories of the people behind the brands and keep an eye out as you browse the products as we are currently updating the site to embed Provenance stories for a quick insight into the people and process behind your product!