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.


Karen Wazen stars in flirty, fun fragrance campaign

Updated 19 January 2019
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Karen Wazen stars in flirty, fun fragrance campaign

DUBAI: Lebanese influencer Karen B. Wazen took to Instagram over the weekend to share her latest advert campaign with British perfume brand Jo Malone.
The stylish blogger shared the video with her 858,000 followers and was quickly inundated with overwhelmingly positive comments on the social media platform.
“So happy to share with you my campaign with @jomalonelondon — ‘You and I together and nothing else matters… Combining nature and love ... Combining two scents... combining two souls’,” she captioned the video.
Directed by Dubai-based influencer and designer Ahmed El-Sayed, who goes by the name @Twistedcurlz on Instagram, the short clip sees Wazen posing for the camera in a park while holding two bottles of the new fragrance.
Wazen shows off biker chic style in the new campaign video, wearing a black leather beret and oversized, boxy leather jacket covered in silver studs.
She draws a heart in the sand, throws fallen leaves at the camera and mouths “I love you” in the flirty, fun clip.

“I loved working on this with you guys,” Wazen added in her caption.
Dubbed a “Cologne Intense,” the new fragrance that Wazen shows off in the video is called “Bronze Wood & Leather” and is described by the brand as a “sultry leather (fragrance) encased in a medley of woods… A rich, enveloping new scent.”
It’s been a busy week for Wazen, who took to Instagram to get involved in the viral #10YearChallenge with a series of snaps.
The blogger shared two side-by-side photos — the first of which was a photo of her posing with her husband, Elias Bakhazi, 10 years ago alongside a more recent shot. “It started when we were young,” she captioned the photographs.
The challenge saw celebrities around the world share decade-old snaps of themselves alongside recent photos to show just how much — and is some cases, how little — they have changed.
However, Wazen isn’t one to just sit back and follow international trends and viral crazes. In December, the successful style star launched her very own range of edgy eyewear featuring 15 designs in a range of retro-to-futuristic styles and colors that are available on karenwazen.com.