When we buy an item of clothing from a mall or outlet in the United States, we often don’t think about the hundreds, even thousands, of people laboring in factories around the world to bring these fashions to the racks.
The weight of this reality hit home, however, after news surfaced on Wednesday of the devastating collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh. The disaster left at least 175 people dead, more than 1,000 injured, and countless others trapped in the rubble. This marks the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history, and points to the chilling underbelly of the fashion industry. According to reports, the building, which housed five garment factories in its eight stories, had developed cracks the night before, but workers were nonetheless ordered back in for work the next morning. If true, the accusation would make this not only a tragic display of negligence, but a human rights violation, at that.
This horrific incident may remind you of similar news from November 2012, when a fire broke out in another garment factory in the country, trapping workers inside and killing 112 people. These disasters are all too common. The garment industry comprises over 75% of Bangladesh’s international exports, with some of their largest buyers being H&M, Walmart, and Gap Inc. Consider that the average H&M women’s shirt is roughly $20, while the average hourly wage of a factory worker in Bangladesh is just $0.13. Roughly one third of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, a trend common among countries with some of the highest sweatshop labor exports around the world.
If all of this makes you a bit sick to the stomach, we completely understand. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 10 clothing companies that do not use sweatshop labor. Please do your own research, though, and let us know what brands you support! Hopefully collectively we can convey the message that no purchase can be considered “cheap” if human lives are the cost.
1. Eddie Bauer
3. Ben Davis
4. Union Jeans
5. Alternative Apparel
6. American Apparel
7. New Balance (Made in US collection)
8. Tom’s Shoes
9. Cut Loose
Photo credit: A.M. Ahad/AP