Wednesday 8 April 2015

The Label Tells The Whole Story

We always check the labels on our clothes, for washing and drying instructions. But what if those labels could cary other information: like the stories of the people who made the clothes in the first place?
The Canadian Fair Trade Network and Rethink Canada have teamed up to do just that, with eye-catching and thought provoking results. Their labels might be a little unwieldly, but they certainly grab your attention. And the tales they tell will make you think twice about the sacrifices that fast fashion forces on its workers.
Take this attractive burgundy hoodie--a perfect choice for relaxed weekends. A harmless, blameless item. Until you read the label:
"100% cotton. Made in Sierra Leone by Tejan.
The first few times he coughed up blood he hid it from his family. They couldn’t afford medical treatment and he couldn’t risk losing his long-time job at the cotton plantation. When he fell into a seizure one day it could no longer be ignored. The diagnosis was pesticide poisoning. The lack of proper protective clothing has left him with leukemia at the age of 34. He has two daughters. One of them starts work at the factory next year."

Or how about this mustard-coloured jumper? A nice piece for layering on a crisp autumn day. But what does the label tell us?
"100% cotton. Made in Cambodia by Behnly, nine years old. He gets up at 5:00 am every morning to make his way to the garment factory where he works. It will be dark when he arrives and dark when he leaves. He dresses lightly because the temperature in the room he works reaches 30 degrees. The dust in the room fills his nose and mouth. He will make less than a dollar, for a day spent slowly suffocating. A mask would cost the company ten cents."

The notion of transparency ties into ethical fashion in so many ways, and this simple idea, of giving us as consumers more information about the workers that make our clothes, is at the heart of the struggle. The work that the Canadian Fair Trade Network are doing is advocacy, but it's based on a belief that in order to do right, we have to know what we're fighting against.

Next time you check the label of your newest purchase, it might just be telling you more than what temperature to wash it at.

For more information on the work the CFTN are doing, visit their website.

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