Imagine waking up one morning to hear the devastating news that the garment factory your sister, brother, mother or father worked at had collapsed. How could this happen? The aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh is still having an impact on the fashion industry across the globe. “Fast-fashion” has been called into question and everyone is realizing the harmful and ultimately, deathly effects of neglecting to build relationships with your supply chain due to lack of transparency.
Although major changes still need to take place within the fashion industry, small steps have been made in order to ensure garment worker safety such as increasing the amount of regular inspections and stricter standards set in place by the International Labour Organization (ILO). But interestingly enough, it all starts with you. The power and voice of the designer is a key influencer when it comes to creating a lasting discourse that will elicit change within the fashion industry. We all have the ability to make a difference.
As a designer, you have first hand experience working within the garment industry and are aware of the long, laborious hours that go into making a single garment. You may be thinking to yourself, “how can I make a difference?” From years of experience working within the garment manufacturing industry, Source My Garment will help you to promote and require full transparency with your current or future manufacturer.
Here are 5 things you can do as a designer to ensure offshore garment worker safety:
1. Create and Foster Long-term Relationships
When you start manufacturing your line you will more or less be working with low minimums of product, which puts strain on the factories. At times, the factories are operating under 30% efficiency and not making much profit. The hope is that in future orders designers will place larger orders to increase their operating efficiencies and turn a profit. Furthermore, they spend copious amounts of time to learn what quality means to your brand so don’t just up and leave if you could save a dollar somewhere else. As much as you have invested in them, they are doing the same and if you to go to another factory, a hole is created in their production calendar and the factory workers are left without jobs if they cannot complete your order. So remember you can impact the factory workers employment, so create positive, trusting relationships with your manufacturers to ensure their job stability.
2. Engage and Take Responsibility for How the Factory Functions
This means asking the manager of the factory that you are sourcing your garments with how much their workers earn. Make sure you do you research before hand with regards to the proper wages that workers in that country should be paid. Be sure to inquire about the factory conditions and if they are certified and what their certifications are. When it comes to understanding the working conditions of a factory, asking questions is always the best policy. Not only does it satisfy your own standards of ethics but it also demonstrates to the factory that you truly care about the workers and their working conditions. Ask them if there is anything you can do to help.
3. Go Meet Them In Person; Make a Vacation Out of It
Most large organizations do not find the need or cut costs by not visiting the factory in person. This is your time to really create a solid relationship with your factory, so take full advantage of it. Walk around the factory and talk to the sewers and learn about their personal stories. Make connections with them and praise them for the amazing work they do! Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to the way the owners speak to the workers and if they are being treated fairly. Also, when you are there get involved with the culture and customs and really take as much as you can out of this once and a lifetime experience!
4. Find Certifications
Certifications are always a good indicator of the safety of the factory and the safety of the workers. It is beneficial to have up-to-date certifications whenever possible but this can be a costly process that many factories are not able to afford. Since ethical and fair trade values are important to you, offer to pay for some of the certifications to ensure that the workers at your affiliated factory are being properly protected.
5. Be Accommodating
Ask the factory managers what their workers want and do something special for them. This could be in the form of offering to make them dinner, asking them how their day was, invite them to hang out with you while you are visiting, anything to make them feel valued. You have the ability to influence their lives in a positive way so motivate them just as much as their managers do in order to reap success!
We are always learning how to better our industry and make it fair for everyone to have the right to a safe workplace. We have provided you with the tools for offshore worker safety and we hope that you will plant the seed that will cause a change towards slow and ethical garment manufacturing.
Have you applied any ways to ensure offshore garment worker safety? We would love to hear any stories or comments you have about how we can help workers and promote safe working conditions.
Psst – this was a guest post!
Adila Cokar is the founder of Source My Garment and has over a decade of a passion filled journey working in the fashion industry. Her goal is to bring awareness that all clothing has a human element and not just made by machines. Learn more about Source My Garment here: