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Thread: The Ugly Side of Fashion

  1. #1

    Default The Ugly Side of Fashion

    Bangladesh building tragedy down to West's cost squeeze -NGOs

    (Reuters) - Major western clothing retailers squeezing Asian suppliers and a flawed approach to ensuring even basic
    working standards are fuelling conditions for tragedies like the latest factory collapse in Bangladesh, NGOs said on Thursday.

    At least 187, mainly female workers, were killed and over 1,000 injured when the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building in Savar, 30 kilometres (20 miles) outside the capital Dhaka, collapsed on Wednesday.

    "What we're saying is that bargain-basement (clothing) is automatically leading towards these types of disasters," John Hilary, executive director at British charity War on Want, told Reuters.

    He said western clothing retailers' desire to undercut rivals has translated into increasing pressure on foreign suppliers to reduce costs.

    "If you've got that, then it's absolutely clear that you're not going to be able to have the right kind of building regulations, health and safety, fire safety. Those things will become more and more impossible as the cost price goes down."

    Hilary said the push for lower costs inevitably led to factories cutting corners: "As a result of that, we see the sort of disaster that happened yesterday."

    War on Want and its partner in Bangladesh, the National Garment Workers' Federation, called on major international buyers to be held to account.

    "This negligence must stop. The deaths of these workers could have been avoided if multinational corporations, governments and factory owners took workers' protection seriously," NGWF president, Amirul Haque Amin, said in a statement.

    Gareth Price-Jones, Bangladesh country director of British charity Oxfam, said western companies had not done enough.

    "Western buyers could be doing much, much more, and they have a moral responsibility to do so," he told Reuters. "Western buyers really need to press for decent wages and safe working conditions."

    He said Bangladeshi building regulations were not robust enough for construction in an earthquake zone and were, in any case, frequently ignored.

    Around 4,500 Bangladeshi factories pump out clothes for many of the world's major brands, employing 4 million workers and generating 80 percent of Bangladesh's $24 billion annual exports, making it the world's No.2 apparel exporter behind China.

    But with wages as low as $37 a month for some workers toiling for 10-15 hours a day, and increasing publicity about unsanitary and unsafe working conditions, some retailers were getting worried about their reputation.

    A lot have introduced corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, where they carry out factory audits and inspections and talk to employees about worker conditions.

    But War on Want says the CSR processes are often flawed.

    "What happens is the workers are trained in what to say, the factories present favourable books and keep back the real books," Hilary said, noting that in countries like China there were courses to coach factories on how to pass an audit without telling the truth.

    The Savar disaster came five months after Bangladesh's worst ever factory fire, which killed 112 people, and another incident at a factory in January in which seven died.

    The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an umbrella organisation that brings NGOs, unions and brands together to try and improve working conditions, said the latest tragedy demonstrated the chronic widespread problems in the sector that affect the most basic of workers' rights.

    "These incidents all serve as yet another call to action for the Bangladesh industry, government, retailers, worker representatives and NGOs to work together, to raise workplace safety standards across the country's garment sector," it said.

    © 2013 Thomson Reuters


    NGO

  2. #2
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Quick scan..... sad as it is, I sense an odd parallel with our own development of safety standards and work conditions...

  3. #3

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    The entire world was like that back then.

    What's happening now: the part of the world that already has those standards not helping others get to it. Facilitating the opposite.

  4. #4
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    Understood.

    The difficult thing is oxymoronically simple. You just can't ask people to not go for something cheaper and expect them to comply.

    WalMart is a prime example of this, although to a lesser degree.

    Illegal handbag sales right here in town is maybe a better example.

    "Oh it is HORRIBLE what happened to those women... but I am getting this sweater for only $20!!!!"


    :harumph:

  5. #5

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    When I saw the title of this thread, I thought for sure I'd see photos of Lindsey Lohan or Miley Cyrus.

    The problem is, this happens in all parts of the fashion spectrum. It isn't just, or mostly, the Walmarts or Targets. I knew a driver for a courier company who said he used to deliver hangers all over the city. One of his stops was on Baxter St, I forgot what number. He walks into a sweatshop. This was the 1990s already. The label on all the clothing being assembled in this sweatshop? Donna Karan.

  6. #6

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    ^
    Exactly.

    It isn't as much about the demand for cheap goods as it is about profit margin.

  7. #7
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Default Punk: Chaos to Couture

    Another sort of Ugly (the eyes of the beholder, and all that) coming soon to The Metropolitan Museum ...

    Haute Punk

    NY TIMES
    April 25, 2013

    Deep in the bowels of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a gray-smocked assistant in the Costume Institute was carefully transporting a long box from a storage area. All around her were mannequins wearing head-to-toe perfected haute couture: a laced-up Versace, a deconstructed Margiela. In a corner stood a male mannequin wearing a black bondage suit and artfully scuffed Doc Marten boots ...

    On view starting May 9, the Costume Institute’s exhibition “Punk: Chaos to Couture” is, by design, a blend of high and low culture, anarchic street style metamorphosed into impossibly chic fashion. “We’re trying to highlight the more intellectual, artistic side of punk,” said Andrew Bolton, the curator of the exhibition ...

    Anarchy in the Met

    NY TIMES
    April 25, 2013

    Left to right: Ray Stevenson; Catwalking
    Johnny Rotten, left, of the Sex Pistols in 1976; right, punk couture from the Junya Watanabe line, 2006-7.


    Left, Sheila Rock; right, Catwalking
    Left, the Clash, in 1976; right, a Vivienne Westwood look, Summer 2010.

    More Photos »

  8. #8
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Shop Accordingly -- and Ethically ...

    Western Firms Feel Pressure as Toll Rises in Bangladesh

    Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
    Volunteers and rescue workers at the collapsed building on Thursday.

    More Photos »


    NY TIMES
    By JULFIKAR ALI MANIK, STEVEN GREENHOUSE and JIM YARDLEY
    April 26, 2013

    DHAKA, Bangladesh — As the search for survivors continued on Friday in one of the worst manufacturing disasters in history, pointed questions were being raised about why a Bangladesh factory building was not padlocked after terrified workers notified the police, government officials and a powerful garment industry group about cracks in the walls.

    As the death toll neared 300, the owner of the collapsed building, the eight-story Rana Plaza, was in hiding, and the police and industry leaders were blaming him for offering false assurances to factory bosses that the structure was sound, leading to the decision to allow 3,000 workers return to work.

    Pressure continued to build on Western companies that had promised after a deadly fire in November to take steps to ensure the safety of Bangladeshi factories that make the goods the companies sell. Activists combing through the rubble here have already discovered labels and documents linking the factories to major European and American brands, like the Children’s Place, Benetton, Cato Fashions, Mango and others.

    PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and Tchibo, a German retailer, have endorsed a plan in which Western retailers would finance fire safety efforts and structural upgrades in Bangladeshi factories — although they first want other companies to sign on.

    Walmart has refused to join that effort. But, in January, it announced that it would demand that factories quickly correct any safety violations and would dismiss any contractor that uses unapproved or unsafe factories. Two weeks ago, Walmart pledged $1.8 million to establish a health and safety institute in Bangladesh to train 2,000 factory managers about fire safety ...

    Primark, a British retailer, confirmed it was using a factory on the building’s second floor and said it was “shocked and deeply saddened by this appalling incident.” Primark said it has been engaged for several years with nongovernmental organizations and “other retailers to review the Bangladeshi industry’s approach to factory standards.”

    Loblaw, a Canadian retailer that markets the apparel brand Joe Fresh, said one factory produced “a small number” of Joe Fresh garments. “We are extremely saddened” by the building collapse, Loblaw said in a statement, adding that, “we will be working with our vendor to understand how we may be able to assist them during this time.”

    But a few Western companies, including Benetton, denied having garments made there, even though documents were found linking those companies to factories in Rana Plaza. Worker advocates said it was possible that subcontractors were using the factories without the companies’ knowledge.

    What is increasingly clear is that the collapse should not have been a surprise. Factory fires have killed hundreds of garment workers in the past decade. At the same time, many factory buildings are substandard and unsafe. Bangladeshi fire officials say the upper floors of Rana Plaza were illegally constructed ...

    Worker protests continued on Friday, growing angrier and more violent, as Bangladeshi media reported that two factories were burned. Other protesters demanded the death penalty for the owner of Rana Plaza as well as the owners of the factories inside the building.

    Bangladesh is the world’s second-leading exporter of apparel, and the domestic garment industry depends on a low-wage formula in which the minimum wage is about $37 a month. Garment exports are a critical driver of the Bangladeshi economy, which creates pressure to keep wages low and workers in line. Labor unions are almost nonexistent in the industry; one labor organizer, Aminul Islam, was brutally killed last year in a case that is still unsolved.


  9. #9

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    Re: post #7:

    Off the run-way, the Westood outfit on the bottom right would most likely be worn as separates. Worn that way they'd look pretty fabulous.

    And believe it or not... the sweater at the top (right) would most likely wind up on a wealthy woman over 60.

    She'd wear it with bouclè pants like this http://www.ezibuy.com.au/productimag...4100_57560.jpg ...and be ready for lunch.

  10. #10

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    I just read on another thread where another poster is advising someone on how to buy a made to measure suit in Hong Kong: because top quality can be had for a fraction of the price you pay in the USA.

    http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showth...l=1#post428954

    Yes, shop 'ethically' - THAT'S was I call truly good advise.

  11. #11

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    I think that creating this sort of thread is a good way to 'expose' any Western Nation company that 'indirectly' takes part in these type of "inhumane" labor practices: the excerpt below is a clear indication that these companies to not want this type of 'bad publicity'. The only way, we can stop these companies from looking 'the other way' when it comes to abusive labor practices abroad is to 'make the public aware' of who they are, and what they are doing. These 'bottom-line players' know no shame, take no blame; they will respond to the only thing they care about - bloody lucre, threats to their profitability.

    "it was possible that subcontractors were using the factories without the companies' knowledge" - that is BS, they don't 'want to know' what the subcontractors are doing. That is the oldest game in the book, and laughably transparent: it's called 'willful ignorance'.


    NY TIMES
    By JULFIKAR ALI MANIK, STEVEN GREENHOUSE and JIM YARDLEY
    April 26, 2013
    Excerpt - But a few Western companies, including Benetton, denied having garments made there, even though documents were found linking those companies to factories in Rana Plaza. Worker advocates said it was possible that subcontractors were using the factories without the companies’ knowledge.
    Last edited by infoshare; April 26th, 2013 at 04:32 PM.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by infoshare View Post
    I just read on another thread where another poster is advising someone on how to buy a made to measure suit in Hong Kong: because top quality can be had for a fraction of the price you pay in the USA.

    http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showth...l=1#post428954

    Yes, shop 'ethically' - THAT'S was I call truly good advise.
    Not surprisingly, you are misinformed.

    The tailor I referenced is known to me personally. I have visited his store in Hong Kong Central many times. It is the same location where measurements are taken, fabrics selected, and suits are hand crafted to buyers' specification. He and his staff are professionals and well-compensated. I know who he is, where he works, and how he works. He is an owner / proprietor, and does most of the work himself. The work he doesn't do is completed by other professional tailors. They work in a comfortable setting in an upscale mall in the Princes building.

    The fact that he also offers mail order service does not mean he is seedy.

    This is not some Malaysian or Pakistani sweatshop. It is not even a factory. It is a well appointed, upscale tailor shop. The suits are inexpensive by Seville Row standards meaning they don't cost several thousands of dollars each, but they still run $600 and up, and there are no US middle man or international brands like Armani to chew up the profits.

    They are not counterfit knock-offs, they are hand crafted custom made suits and they carry this gentleman's private label. In fact the labor conditions in this facility are probably better than those that US brands such as Brooks Brothers use (shirts manufactured in Malaysian factories). Who knows, they may be better than the plants used by the brands you buy your clothes from, unless you re sure that none are made in east asia. Tailor shops such as his are listed in most tourist guidebooks.

    I am not surprised at your knee-jerk reference to my post - most of your posts suggest a lack of attention to detail, a lack of thought and seem to be devoid of reseach and facts. Still, you should think about at least trying to get it right before tossing out off-handed, misinformed accusatory comments.

    If you have ever been to Hong Kong, you know that visting legitimate tailors for custom made suits is fairly common practice for local business people. This is not some underground sweat shop operaton or practice. It is an above board legitimate operation.

    Once again your off-handed comment resulted in an insulting and erroneous conclusion. You've got a lot of nerve.
    Last edited by eddhead; April 27th, 2013 at 12:14 AM. Reason: BB shirts are manufactured in Malaysia, not China

  13. #13
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    ^ That just about sums it up.

  14. #14

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    Unfortunately, so much of what we consume is courtesy of slave labor. Consider the I Phone debacle at China's FoxCom plant.

  15. #15
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Well said, eddhead.

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