Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Made in Bangladesh" equals unethical clothing?

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Should we avoid any product that is made in Bangladesh and other developing countries?

The past few years we all have seen the headlines in the media, "Bangladesh Sweatshop Fire", "Rana Plaza collapse", "Are your clothes made in sweatshops?" The media has painted a black picture of the garment industry in Bangladesh. And the same goes for the Cambodian garment production, where it is cheap for brands to manufacture their clothing.

Does this mean that all clothing made in Bangladesh or another developing country is unethical? The media certainly makes it feel that way.
Clothing label 'Made in Bangladesh'
Clothing label 'Made in Bangladesh'


After the collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013, people and organizations across the globe started campaigns to promote ethical fashion production, by demanding safe working standards and living wages for the factory workers.

Consumer confusion

Personally, I swore to myself that I would never buy any clothing, accessory or shoes produced in Bangladesh, Cambodia and China. That was my consumer power and I used it to boycott the sweat-shop industry. Some of the blogs I looked into stood up against the industry by engaging in "stop shopping for one year", and others were spending time and money on re-use and second-hand.
View of Dhaka in Bangladesh.  Copyright: meinzahn / 123RF Stock Photo
View of Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Copyright: meinzahn / 123RF Stock Photo

On the other hand, can we trust that clothes that are labeled 'Made in US' or 'Made in Australia', are in fact produced in these countries? The label might be sewn in the US or Australia, but not necessarily manufactured in those respective countries. This is also called "trans-shipping".

Read: The garment industry in Asia.
After I while though I started to reflect over my decision of not purchasing anything from developing countries. When I discovered that there are at least a handful of ethical brands that manufacture their clothing in factories in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia, I couldn't see things in black and white anymore.

It seems like 'Made in Bangladesh' doesn't deserve all the shit storm. As part of the research for this article, I stumbled upon an article from Ecouterre.

Check out: Sustainable fashion brands that product ethically in Bangladesh.

Popular sustainable brands like UK-based People Tree manufacture their clothing in Bangladesh and India. According to Ecouterre, the company helped establish a fair-trade community named Swallows in rural Bangladesh, that has given more than 200 women the opportunity to earn "superior wages".


Clothes made ethically in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of People Tree.
Clothes made ethically in Bangladesh. Photo courtesy of People Tree.
1. Bryoni Gingham top  2. Dora Chambray  3. Marlon check men's shirt

Pact Apparel produces ethically made clothes in India and Turkey. The company specializes in fair-trade, organic clothes and underwear.

1. Pocket dress  2. T-shirt scoop neck  3. Super soft organic hipster. Photo courtesy of Pact Apparel.
1. Pocket dress  2. T-shirt scoop neck  3. Super soft organic hipster.
Photo courtesy of Pact Apparel.

In Cambodia, the biggest ethical brand is called Tonlé (named after the lake). The brand focuses on a zero-waste design process and is particularly known for their dresses :-) According to their site, their employees are paid "well above the local minimum wage, and are provided with benefits".
1. Tess dress in cream  2. Tess dress in black. Photo courtesy of Tonlé.
1. Tess dress in cream  2. Tess dress in black. Photo courtesy of Tonlé.

So, there are actually fashion brands out there who produce clothing ethically in Bangladesh, India and other developing countries :-)

Maybe it's time to re-consider the way we label clothes, because 'Made in [...]' doesn't equal unethical clothing.




Continue to read:
Fashion Revolution Day - who made your clothes?

Get to know the fast fashion industry - watch the True Cost Movie, or you can read my review.

Have your say about what you just read :)

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