Reinventing the Model

photo-6A little late to the plate, but we have so much to be thankful for this year. Our fantastic friends and family, our growing group of fantastic entrepreneurial friends, a fantastic team of artisans and tailors working with us in Haiti, each other, delicious coffee each morning, our vibrant city and Gimlet (my cat;) to name just a few. Beyond this I am so thankful to see that mainstream media is taking a more vested interest in exposing the shortcomings of the fashion industry and placing pressure through increased consumer awareness to change the industry.

This weekend saw major Canadian newspapers the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail highlight the dominant socio-economical issues created by the fashion industry in developing countries. WIth a specific focus on Bangladesh, the Star and the Globe spoke of the paltry wages, horrendous working conditions, environmental degradation and lack of ability to unionize that the world of fast fashion has created for factory workers around the globe. I hope this is the beginning of an ongoing engagement, investigation and conversation by the media.

Just shy of 6 months since the collapse of Rana Plaza, we are still looking for answers and adequate responses from retailers, manufacturers, governments and consumers. In 2000 after the BBC exposed the Gap for its use of child workers in sweatshops, consumers and advocacy groups placed major pressure on the Gap to address these issues. The Gap responded by implementing random, third party audits at overseas factories and the employing overseas investigators to ensure ethical standards are upheld. Despite the public outcry and the subsequent assurance through auditing measures that the industry was making strides to address the issue of child labour, the Gap once more found itself in hot water in 2007 under new allegations that they were linked to a factory with children as young as 10 years old working. Like many fashion brands, the Gap subcontracts their orders out to many different factories, thus deferring the blame or the responsibility for ethical labour standards upon their subcontractors.

In Haiti, the Caracol Industrial Park is now up and running. Despite the promise of 60,000+ jobs at its facility, as of September 2013 the park employs only 1,500. Caracol is located on 600 acres of land having displaced 366 farmers (each given $3,200 for their land) in Haiti’s Northern region.  The Caracol plant demonstrates how little the fashion industry has changed over the past decades. Despite fashion trends continuously evolving and changing, the way we create fashion remains the same tired model of exploitation.

It’s time for the manufacturing sector to catch up to the design aspect of the fashion industry. Let’s find ways to reinvent the exhaustive model in place that does not work.

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