The Importance of asking: Who Made My Clothes?

For the second day of Fashion Revolution week I’m writing on the topic of #WhoMadeMyClothes. This is a central part of Fashion Revolution’s philosophy. Oftentimes the faces behind the garments are hidden. We often have no idea who made our clothes or what condition they made them in.

I decided to take the outfit I’m wearing today and do an investigation into each garment. I want to see how much information I can find out about who made my clothes.

Starting with this dark green top I got from H&M a number of years ago. I’m still very much into wearing my old fast fashion pieces, you can read about that here. Most garments give very little details about who made their clothes, often with just a country on the label. This top was made in Turkey. On a visit to H&M’s website I went straight to their sustainability tab to see if I could find any information. There is a further section called ‘Let’s be transparent’ which seems hopeful.

Unfortunately, because I bought my top a few years ago it is near impossible to trace back any information about who made it. I only know it was made in Turkey. But recently H&M seem to have bought in more transparency. If you’re looking to buy an item from them now, you can click on the ‘background information’ tab on the garment online and it will give you the name of the factory it was made in. Or at least – that’s how it should work. When checking this out with a few items on H&M’s website it seemed that for some of their garments they didn’t really know where it was made. On one top I found the information stated that it could have been made in eight different factories, across four countries and two continents.

I think H&M have made good steps here – they’re making an effort. But it’s still very challenging to find out where their clothes are made. This is a worry because how can we know what conditions the people in that factory are working in? If they’re being paid enough? If they’re being overworked? If they’re being abused?

Knowing who made our clothes is an essential part of the Fashion Revolution.

Onto the second part of the outfit. A pair of black leggings I bought a couple of years ago from People Tree. People Tree is known for being an ethical brand. I’m expecting that it won’t be too much of a challenge to find out information about where my leggings were made. On a visit to People Tree’s website, I was really happy to see that the first thing on their home screen was an advert for Fashion Revolution Week. Marking People Tree’s commitment to ethical and sustainable fashion, the leggings I bought a couple of years ago were still available to buy today.

Scrolling down the page I quickly found out where it was made. My leggings were made by Assisi in India, which is a social enterprise that was created to support disadvantaged women. People Tree had more information and photos of Assisi and even a video about it! It was easy to see who had made my clothes, and I felt confident that they were working in good conditions.

People Tree is an example of how every fashion brand should behave.

Now onto the jumper I’m wearing today. An impulse purchase from Primark from a number of years ago. But one of those impulse purchases that I have worn over and over again. It’s one of my favourite items in my wardrobe, and I take it with me every time I go away.

The label says it’s made in Vietnam. Time to head over to Primark’s website to see if I can find any more information. I can see there has been a big effort made by Primark to try and fix their reputation as one of the most unethical shops on the high street. On the ‘Primark Cares’ section of their website they have a map where you are able to see the factories by country. They have 23 factories in Vietnam. Clicking on individual factories you can find out how many people work there and the percentage which are men and which are women. But that’s about it, there is no information on what particular garments are made in those factories. So it seems I won’t be able to find out who made my jumper. I’m glad Primark are making an effort to make their garments more traceable, but they have a long way to go.

So on my quest to find out who made my clothes, I’ve had one success and two failures. Today I will be making social media posts asking H&M and Primark who made my clothes, as I want to know who made my clothes and what kind of conditions they made them in. I challenge you to do the same, take a picture of your garment and tag the brand, asking #WhoMadeMyClothes? I believe that H&M and Primark have started to make changes because of the pressure that’s been put on them by consumers. Let’s continue putting on that pressure to make a positive change for the garment workers making our clothes.

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