There is a story behind each garment. Whether the garment is made in Italy by an adult or in Myanmar by a 14-year-old, there is a story behind it. As a customer we are able to decide which story we want to buy. What’s sad is that so many of us are buying clothes made by teenagers just to for the good prize. We don’t think about it when we buy it. We see the finished product, but too often we forget to think about the story behind it.
A new book in Sweden has once again put a light on working conditions in the country. Naturally, the Swedish fast fashion chain H&M were brought up and apparently it has been working with factories in Myanmar where girls down to 14 years old has been working for more than 12 hours a day. 15 year-olds were working until 10pm.
H&M’s respond was:
“When 14- to 18-year-olds are working it is therefore not a case of child labour, according to international labour laws. International Labour Organisation instead stresses the importance of not excluding this age group from work in Myanmar. H&M does of course not tolerate child labour in any form.”
Unfortunately, working conditions and child labour are universal problems. In 2013 a factory building in Bangladesh, called Rana Plaza collapsed and killed 1134 people and injured many more. Then, media really got their eyes up and gave chains a political pressure. Fast fashion chains became more careful with which factories they work with.
H&M have over the last few years started to operate in different markets. Their priority is quality and sustainability. They stated:
“It is of utmost importance to us that our products are made under good working conditions and with consideration to safety, health and the environment. We have therefore taken action regarding two suppliers in Myanmar which have had problems with ID-cards and overtime.”
As customers we should always keep our eyes open. When it comes to quality you often get what you pay for. But there should be more than just the quality and design that interests us. Shouldn’t how the product was made and gets into our hands also count as a factor?
Text: Christine Rye-Johnson
Images: The Guardian, Clean Clothes, H&M, Cyrus Updates