Step Up

For regular readers you will know that I am currently raising money for Labour Behind the Label who are a charity that campaigns to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. This month they launched a campaign for shoe brands to Step Up and tell us where our shoes are made.

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In 2014 24 billion pairs of shoes were produced, 87% of those shoes were made in Asia. Workers in the shoe industry face many issues from poverty pay, long working hours and denial of union rights to health and environmental risks.

 

Naga-Bai-65-years-homeworker-–-sewer-2Meet Naga Bai, a 65 year old home shoe worker from Ambur in India. For every pair of shoes she stitches, she earns just 10p. She can sew a maximum of 10 pairs per day, meaning her daily income is about £1. This is far too little to live on, a kilogram of rice costs up to 43p. As a home worker, Naga Bai is not eligible to receive any employment benefits, such as a pension or medical insurance.

 

Many shoes are made of leather that use toxic chemicals and dyes which can be dangerous to workers. Chromium 6, used in leather tanning, can cause asthma, eczema, blindness and cancer. When it transfers to the waste water it causes harmful pollution to the environment and to communities nearby.

cys2Here is Jahaj and his brother, aged 8 and 7, working in a factory where animal hides are tanned in Hazaribagh, Bangladesh. They process the raw hides into the first stage of leather. Their job is to get inside the tannery pit, which is full of hazardous chemicals and pull out the hides. They both suffer from rashes and itches. Asked why they perform such dangerous tasks, they said: “When we are hungry, acid doesn’t matter. We have to eat.”

Labour Behind the Label are calling on us to ask ‘who made our shoes’. If brands are transparent about where their shoes are being made it helps workers to claim their rights.

For example…

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Compensation – When the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, more than 1,100 garment workers were killed. But before their families could seek compensation from the brands, the brands’ labels had to be picked out of the rubble. This is because information about which brands were making clothes at those factories wasn’t publicly available. In the horrific event of another catastrophe like Rana Plaza, transparency will allow compensation to be paid for workers and their families much more quickly.

Wages and employment conditions – Knowing the average wages of workers on different grades within a factory and across similar factories would allow for a union to scrutinise whether wages are fair and enough to live on. Women homeworkers play an essential role stitching leather uppers for shoes. But they are often invisible, their rights ignored and they are at the mercy of their employer. Brands must identify and recognise homeworkers and give them the same rights as any other workers.

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What can we do?

You can sign Labour Behind the Label’s petition to call for leading UK shoe brands and retailers Schuh, Office, Faith, Debenhams, Dr Martens, Primark, Asda, Very.co.uk, Bohoo.com, Boden, Harvey Nichols and Sports Direct along with leading global shoe brands Deichmann, Camper, Prada, Birkenstock, CCC and Leder to:

  • Publish the names and addresses of all their suppliers
  • Report on progress in moving away from dangerous chemicals
  • Show that they are respecting the human rights of the people who make their shoes, ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions.

You could reduce the number of shoes you buy. An increase in fast fashion has                   drove brands to resort to using unethical practices in making shoes. Buying less                 and better quality will help to combat this.

Or you could buy from ethical shoe brands such as:

Super Sunday Swap Shop

People now buy four times more clothes than they did in the 80’s. To meet these increasing demands fashion brands are cutting corners in regards to worker rights, pay and safety. It also has huge consequences for the environment, on average UK consumers send 30kg of clothing to landfill each year.

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Labour Behind the Label are a charity that are dedicated to changing this. Throughout the year I’m doing a couple of challenges to raise money for them and today I held a Swap Shop to encourage the reuse of clothes and raise awareness of the issue.

A Swap Shop is simple, people bring any unwanted clothes, jewellery, books, toiletries etc. to swap. Anything that takes your fancy you can take and any left over bits will be donated to charity. One man/woman’s trash is another man/woman’s treasure.

With support from my amazing friends and family on the day we managed to raise a whopping £123!!!! It was great fun and we took away some cool pieces. My personal favourite is a demin jacket my mate Niamh brought. She had bought it from Dawn O’Porter who sold it on instagram for charity. And now it has been swapped, again for charity! A jacket that just keeps on giving.

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Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this so far. You’re all absolute legends. Especially my Mam, Alison, who today was a superstar! If you would like to donate click here.  Also, keep your ears to the ground as I’ll be hosting another Swap Shop soon!

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend, I know I certainly have. Good night x

 

Spotlight on ethical fashion

In just the past few weeks there have been two very interesting broadcasts around ‘fast fashion‘. Channel 4 Dispatches and a podcast by The Guilty Feminist have placed a spotlight on the issues surrounding today’s clothing production and consumption.

Dispatches – Britain’s Cheap Clothes

Channel 4 uncovers issues in UK factories and warehouses of brands such as Boohoo, Misguided, ASOS, New Look and River Island. The factories that were investigated were based in Leicester, literally on my own doorstep. Workers were being paid £3 an hour, less than half the national minimum wage. The workings conditions were poor, fire hazards were rife and employees worked extra long shifts. In the warehouses workers were searched and given strikes for ridiculous reasons such as clocking in one minute late, taking compassionate leave to look after a sick parent and even smiling!

“They see pounds not people.”

The two Dispatches episodes are a must watch. Seeing the conditions, the attitudes and just how poorly made the items are is definitely motivation to keep asking the question – “How was it made?

The Guilty Feminist – Ethical Clothing with Aisling Bea

If you do not listen to The Guilty Feminist, then I suggest you start. Alongside being hilarious, their discussions really make you think. Whether it is about a man being seen as powerful, yet a woman being seen as BOSSY. Or apologising for eating chocolate then ordering slices of cake. Or finding that when surrounded by men you speed up your speech to make sure you are not interrupted. What they discuss is real, and it the feminism where you don’t shave your armpits and hate on men, it is about equality and empowerment and generally feeling happier in who you are.

This podcast episode focuses on how consumerism has changed. We are wanting to buy more for less money. A celebrity wears something one day, we want it the next. Brands are under pressure to make clothing quickly and cheaply, resulting in unfair labour practices. As the consumer we are the only ones that can change this by not buying from businesses that exploit their workers and driving consumerism to being about buying less at a fairer, better quality.

However The Guilty Feminist made a poignant point, for instance a single mother of 3 children, how is it possible for her to purchase ethically on a budget to continually replace her ever growing children’s wardrobe? At the end of the day it is about making sensible decisions when buying clothes. Some handy tips were discussed, such as buying vintage or from charity shops, trying the 30 wears challenge (if you are not going to wear it at least 30 times, do not buy!), doing some research into your favourite brands, and not just buying a new outfit because of the pressure of wearing something never been seen before.

I am 100% positive we are all guilty of treating ourselves to a new pair of shoes, just because. Or searching high and low for a new outfit for a party, despite having a wardrobe full of great outfits, but because people may have seen it before there needs to be a new one bought. Or refusing to buy from a charity shop because not matter how many times you wash it, it still smells a little foisty. But having the media place a spotlight on these issues will hopefully keep reminding us to just think more about what we are buying. Long may this unfurling of the fashion industry continue.

Luva Huva – Ethical Lingerie

I mostly base my underwear purchases on comfort and practicality. When I found Luva Huva, an ethical lingerie brand based in Brighton, whose website hosts pictures of beautiful and delicate items I was quite sceptical as to whether they would provide bras to my size and comfort requirements. In the past I’ve struggled to find pretty bras that support and look good under clothing. Despite my scepticism I ordered a matching bra and pant set.

On Instagram I saw my purchase being made in a story video, and they posted a picture of my item on their feed. Luva Huva (a team of just five women) makes almost all orders from scratch and keeps very few items in stock, the care put into my order was reinforced by actually seeing the item on the sewing machine just days before it landed through my letter box.

organic ethical lingerie bra bridal sexy erotic everyday red purple burgundy lace, soutien-gorge, reggiseno, dentelle, pizzo, rouge bordeaux violet, rossoRed & Cream Stripe Frilly Knickerorganic ethical lingerie trousers pants legging  pyjama pajama, sport yoga gym outfit everyday red burgundy lace bamboo, pigiama bordo bordeaux rouge rosso bambou bambu, dentelle pizzoorganic ethical lingerie bra crop top knicker sheer see through lace sexy everyday black, soutien gorge, reggiseno, noir, nero, pizzo, dentelleorganic ethical lingerie knicker cotton bamboo sexy everyday black plus size, mutandine, culotteorganic ethical lingerie robe bridal sexy everyday blue green bamboo lace, blu, azzuro, bleu,vert, verde, dentelle bambou, pizzo bambu, robe de nuit, camicia da notteorganic ethical lingerie babydoll short bamboo everyday stripe navy blue plus size, camicia da notte, chemise de nuit

Luva Huva develops garments from eco-friendly materials (bamboo, soy, hemp and certified organic cotton). Using natural fabrics makes their items comfortable and breathable. Vintage or end of line fabrics are also used, in doing this, material that would otherwise be waste can be recycled.

My Luva Huva bra and knickers fit perfectly, are super comfortable and if I do say so myself, look amazing. They cost maybe double what I would usually spend on a lingerie set, however the quality is very obvious. Thanks Luva Huva for making what used to be a nightmare finding bras that fit and look good, to an easy ethical online purchase.

MUD Jeans & RePack

I am always on the look out for an ethical and environmentally friendly brand, so when I stumbled across MUD Jeans I got a little excited.

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MUD Jeans are produced in fair factories from recycled, organic or BCI cotton using around 80% less water and producing around 70% less CO2 compared to other denim producers.

MUD gives you the option to either purchase the jeans outright, or lease them. In leasing the jeans you pay a monthly fee for 12 months, then at the end of the 12 months you can either return to MUD or keep them. For me this is great as I tend to get bored of clothes quite quickly.

When my MUD package arrived, it landed through the letter box in a RePack bag. RePack is returnable and can be reused up to 20 times. When you return your RePack, which is free of charge, you receive a 10% discount email that can be used with any business that uses RePack.

Today I am off to return my RePack package, wearing my MUD Jeans and I cannot wait to use my 10% discount on another sustainable purchase.