Fashion giants in rights drive after Bangladesh factory tragedy

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Mohammad Ibrahim, a garment worker union leader, in front of the site of the former Rana Plaza garment complex in Savar, northwest of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. (AFP)
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Nilufer Begum, an injured garment worker who survived the Rana Plaza disaster, sits with her crutches by her small tea stall in Savar, northwest of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. Every hour seems to be eternal struggle for Nilufer Begum ever since she was pulled out from the debris of the Rana Plaza factory complex, which collapsed in 2013. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2018
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Fashion giants in rights drive after Bangladesh factory tragedy

  • The collapse of the Rana Plaza building housing several garment factories on April 24, 2013 sparked global outrage
  • The Rana Plaza disaster focused global attention on grim working conditions in factories in Bangladesh

PARis: Five years on from the industrial disaster that killed over 1,130 clothing factory workers in Bangladesh, high street fashion giants have invested millions in developing more socially responsible practices.
But experts say the people who produce the T-shirts, dresses and rompers that sell like hotcakes online and on high streets around the world still often face dangerous working conditions and dismally low pay.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza building housing several garment factories in the Dhaka suburb of Savar on April 24, 2013 sparked global outrage and forced a rethink of how fast fashion collections should be produced.
It also triggered a huge drive among activists to encourage shoppers to buy from small, local stores, rather than from large multinationals — while calling the fashion giants to account.
The tragedy, one of the worst industrial accidents in modern history, exposed a key problem of globalization. While workers in Bangladesh earned a pittance for their labor, companies kept prices low and their profits high.
“This global model ... based on keeping production costs low, pitting workers around the world in competition against each other, and ... the short-term search for profit” endures, according to Ethique Pour l’Etiquette, a French group that is part of the global Clean Clothes Campaign.
After years of outrage over images of so-called sweatshops around the world, the Rana Plaza disaster focused global attention on grim working conditions in factories in Bangladesh, the second-biggest garments exporter after China.
According to British charity War on Want, garments exports account for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s total export revenue.
But even today, garments workers’ rights remain far from guaranteed, with many working 14-to 16-hour days at some of Bangladesh’s 4,500 factories, the organization says.
As Western consumers grow more socially and environmentally conscious, the fashion houses that have long relied on factories like those in the Rana Plaza have battled to redeem themselves.
Primark, for one, says it “continues to support those who were affected and ... has contributed a total of over $14 million in aid and compensation.”
It also says it launched a program of building inspections “to assess its suppliers’ factories against international standards” six weeks after the building collapse, and that it “remains committed” to improving the Bangladeshi garment industry as a whole.
Swedish retail giant H&M, which says it never used the Rana Plaza factories to produce garments, is nonetheless committed to ensuring greater “social and environmental progress” in Bangladesh.
On April 19, H&M said in a statement that 450,000 textile workers at 227 factories in Bangladesh that produce garments for its stores worldwide “are now represented by democratically elected representatives.”
The role of these representatives is to “speak on behalf of the workers when discussions are held about for example working hours, working conditions, health and security issues,” the statement said.
More broadly, the International Labour Organization launched a program following the disaster, to “enhance safety in factories so that the country should never again experience a tragedy like the Rana Plaza collapse.”
The ILO program includes training for local producers in chemical safety, inspection of over 1,500 factories for building and fire safety, labor inspection, and an improved culture of safety in the workplace.
Celine Choain, a garment industry specialist at the Paris-based Kea Partners consultancy, said that while there has definitely been progress, much remains to be done.
“The incident definitely acted as a catalyst for brands” to put in place changes in the way they produce their garments, Choain said.
She noted that two thirds of the 1,700 Bangladeshi factories inspected following an ILO-sponsored safety agreement successfully corrected 75 percent of the breaches that were identified.
However, wages remain dismally low, according to War on Want, which last week described working conditions for the vast majority of Bangladesh’s garment factory workers as “appalling.”
Many garment workers earn little more than the minimum wage of 5,300 taka ($65) per month.


Go for a vintage vibe this Ramadan with London-born brand RIXO

Updated 41 min 49 sec ago
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Go for a vintage vibe this Ramadan with London-born brand RIXO

DUBAI: London-based brand RIXO boasts vintage-inspired duds that will take your Ramadan wardrobe from bleak to chic in a snap.
Founded in 2015 by London College of Fashion alumni Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McClosky, RIXO dresses are stocked on e-retail sites that deliver across the region.
Middle East-targeted e-retailers Ounass.com and ShopatSauce.com stock the fun, flirty brand, while rixo.co.uk also delivers to various locations across the region.
Now that you have no excuse not to place an order, it is high time we dive into exactly why this British-born brand is perfect for Ramadan.
The flowy dresses are light, fresh and floral and are perfect for the Gulf’s soaring temperatures this summer. The floor-length outfits are ideal for iftar or suhoor gatherings, while the mix-n-match prints (think leopard print and florals in one dress) are a welcome break from the heavy fabrics and traditional patterns often worn during the month.
The Chrissy dress — stocked on Ounass.com and ShopatSauce.com — is a conversation starter to say the least. One variant of the gown fetures a leopard print top half that gives way to black-and-white florals on the skirt, which is completed with a flared orange hemline. It may sound like a lot to take it, but it works. It is a patchwork of seemingly disparate materials that have been woven together to fit the female form perfectly, and, just in case you snuck in that extra samosa at iftar, it is also gloriously flowy.
If you’re after something a little tamer, but still want the oomph that this brand offers, take a look at a mode demure style of the Chrissy dress. The spotted bodice gives way to florals in various shades set against a black background — it is wild enough to turn heads, but is still within the sartorial comfort zone of even the most timid dressers.
If you’re willing to get a bit louder, the Sienna dress — found on RIXO’s own e-retail website — could satisfy your desire to raise eyebrows.
The coat-style dress is almost abaya-like in that it can be left unbuttoned and worn with simple garments underneath. However, your innerwear of choice will likely be the only simple thing about this dress — its panels of wildly different, nature inspired materials are eye-catching to say the least.
The brand is known for its trademark pieces, such as the dresses outlined above, and it is all part of the designers’ efforts to create vintage inspired one-off pieces for the modern woman. In a refreshing twist, the brand does not mass produce its clothes, instead opting to have each piece hand-painted in RIXO’s London studio.