The fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh. (Photo by James Pogue)Can anyone remember a time where the Bangladesh garment district was in the headlines for the right reasons? At the end of last year the news broke that at least 117 people had died in a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in Dhaka. Today, statistics emerged about the industry in Dhaka, which told us how more than 3.5 million people are employed in the garment business and how most of them work ten hours a day, six days a week for as little as £24 a month.
Which, clearly, sucks.I walked around London to see if anyone gave a shit about how their clothes are made and sourced.
Joe, 26, bar manager: It would probably bother me if I thought about it, but I don’t think about it.So you think that’s just the way the world works?
When you’re in the store, you just think, 'T-shirt – nice, yeah, OK.' But when you open up the newspaper and see the name of the brand, you think, 'Oh shit. I should feel bad.'But it’s the way of capitalism.
Yeah. I don’t even know where this T-shirt’s made. It’s probably made by some poor kid somewhere.You’re probably right.
Paula, 45, works in financial services: I care, yeah.Do you research it all?
No, I just go with what I read in the press.But it does factor into your decision making process as a consumer?
Yeah. For example, I don’t buy anything from Gap – they have a really bad track record. I haven’t bought anything from them in years.
Paul, 49, owns a bar: It matters to me.But isn’t it pervasive? If you want to go buy a white T-shirt, isn’t the likelihood of it being made by someone who is underpaid and toiling away in bad conditions pretty high?
If you want plain shirts, go to army surplus stores, because the Ministry of Defence and all that have to have good ethics. They won’t buy from high street stores, they don’t want to be drawn into the political stuff.Any specific brands you’ll avoid?
Gap used to have a floating island as a way around international law. And they were having kids work there for two pence an hour, or whatever. And they were having clothes that said “Made with American cotton,” to have people think it was made in America, when, in fact, it wasn’t.
Besmirching the unflawed reputation of America.
Paul, 39 tax adviser: Do I care where they come from? As in, do I care if they come from the jungle somewhere?Well, do you care if the people who made them are being paid two pence an hour and forced to work 19-hour shifts with no bathroom breaks?
Well, I do. Or I want to. I would if I was more aware. It’s not something I read up on. I would care if there was some way of telling. Maybe a red tag if it’s made by some kid in India for two pence an hour, green if it’s made in Britain by someone on £40,000 a year. How am I supposed to know how it’s made?Isn’t that capitalism, though? Companies are going to go where labour is cheapest.
It drives me up a fucking wall. That’s all capitalism is all about – maximising profits.So would you pay more if you knew it was ethically made?
No.Oh, OK. Now I’m just confused.
Neil, 35, accountant: Well, I would put it this way: we’re all human – if it’s cheaper, we’ll buy it. I’d like to say people care a lot, or should care a lot, but that’s the reality.So do you care about how it’s made?
I do, but it’s just the reality of how companies work. They’ll always move from place to place looking for cheap labour. If they can get it made cheaper somewhere else, they’ll move there.Previously - Should You Be Arrested for What You Say On Twitter?