Primark Dress Includes Worker’s Cry For Help

 

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Mysterious messages about working conditions discovered in a store remind us that textile industry standards have changed little since the Rana Plaza disaster. Two Swansea shoppers have come forward saying they found extra labels sewn into items bought last year. “Forced to work exhausting hours” read the first; “Degrading sweatshop conditions” says the latest, pictured in the 25 June edition of the paper.

In part this is down to the sheer complexity of the fashion supply chain. Perhaps the most poignant and ironic thing about the message in a Primark dress, is that as far away as the machine operators in the stitch-and-sew factories of Bangladesh and elsewhere might appear, they are far closer to us than most of the other millions of people involved in making our clothes.

The rise of ethical shopping, or what US sociologist Juliet Schor calls “conscious consumption”, has made limited headway in fashion. It is possible to choose free-range over factory-produced eggs even in convenience stores; much harder to opt to pay a premium of a couple of pounds for a T-shirt that comes with ethical plus points.

Fashion simply can’t deliver this kick, or not without tremendous efforts on the parts of specialists such as Bruno Pieters, whose recently launched Honest By label provides details of exactly where and how each item was made. The story of textile production is the story of industrialisation, of thrilling technological innovation in the north of England. But it is also the story of slavery and the destruction of textile manufacturing in India, as Ian Jack wrote last week. It’s no wonder this cry of rage from a garment factory, whoever put it there, pricks our consciences. Even if we can hardly begin to understand why.

Via Guardian