More and more often, we’re talking seriously about sustainability & ethical production in fashion. It’s often a battle between your gut and your wallet — who wins, who knows? But the discussion keeps going. Just this week, there have been serious questions raised about poverty & bodies, misogyny & advertising and working conditions as they relate to the latest controversy with American Apparel. Of course, these questions have been floating around for awhile now.
These questions came to a head most poignantly during 2013’s Savar building collapse in Bangladesh, considered the deadliest garment factory disaster and history. Brands like Benetton, Walmart, and Primark used the factory before it collapsed. Other major brands, like H&M and Inditex (Zara’s parent company), produce using factories with similar working conditions and safety standards. Despite a contentious industry accord to improve safety in Bangladeshi factories, a New York Times report from earlier this week revealed that factories still lacked proper fire doors and sprinkler systems.
A Guardian profile from last year illustrates the pain caused by fashion’s inattention to the dangers of industrial production. The report details stories of children killed in the building collapse. Many of the workers who died or were injured in the accident were teenagers or younger, and most were under 30. Evidence suggests that little has been done to substantively change anything on the frontier of child labor or the conditions child laborers face.
It’s hard for anyone outside the boardroom to make policy, and the fashion industry is no exception. Finding a practical route by which to conscientiously work against child labor, poor work conditions, and environmental recklessness is no easy task.
Pragmatic, then, is a new plug-in available for Chrome and Safari. It’s called aVOID, and it contributes to the consumer-side fight against child labour by removing products produced by children from the shopping experience. The app uses data from Aktiv Gegen Kinderarbeit (German for, Active Against Child Labor) to determine which clothes were produced through impermissible means. Macy’s, Yoox, Amazon, and ASOS are some of the websites that can be modified using this app.
What I saw on screen was a sort of poignant notice of how many clothes are produced by children in third-world countries. aVOID calls us to consider, more broadly, the implication of participating in fashion, overall. To a certain degree, the gloss of e-commerce conceals the grit and reprehensibility of dynamics at far remove: factories in Bangladesh, sweatshops in China, and the like. The weird white blocks seen as the app erases rows of merchandise interrupt the perfect, gridded logic of the many websites we frequent. Aside from being just a practical tool, Avoid is also a tool for a clean conscience.
The question is: will you install?
Tags: fashion ethics