Who made my clothes ?
That is the question. Today, on Fashion Revolution Day, I'm asking Uniqlo, Ines de la Fressange and Cos #whomademyclothes? Here's my outfit.
I wear the shirt all the time and will declare here that it was a gift from Uniqlo. It's designed by Ines de la Fressange who I know is a very fair minded, cool woman of the world. But I wonder if when she collaborated with Uniqlo if she even asked about the working conditions of the garment makers making the clothes that bear her name?
Celebrity collabs are so important to brands these days, and those celebrities have the opportunity to flex their muscles, ask questions and make positive change.
I, along with many other fans of Cos rely on the high street brand for a seasonal wardrobe refresh. They just get the design so right. But do they get the manufacture right? We all know Cos is part of H&am and these clothes - though a little more expensive - are made in the same factories that spew out clothes for H&M. Cos customers are prepared to pay a little extra. They would like that money to go to the people who make their clothes.
So this question, who made my clothes? Is not a rhetorical one just because it has a hashtag. We consumers want questions. We are loyal to our favourite brands and would like them in return to show some loyalty to the people in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam who make our clothes.
This is how it CAN be done:
I like this initiative by Asos Africa which uses small producer groups in Africa (Kenya in the case of this mad floral print dress). It shows the possibilities of how clothes can be produced in ways that do not involve exploiting the people who make them and can contribute in a positive way.
Many of these clothes are made at Soko, an Eco- factory in Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya. I was fortunate to meet Joanna Maiden, the amazing British woman who set up Soko a few months ago. Her business is all about providing employment for the local population - all employees have access to a pre-school for their children, free medical care and a kitchen and dining room serving tea and a hot meal daily. Maiden is inspiring in her vision and ambition for her project. Soko produces great collections for Suno, Choolips and Asos and is looking for other like-minded companies and designers to work with.