Rana Plaza and the Primark Retort

April 24, 2014 • Fashion


Protesters demonstrate outside the flagship Primark shop on Oxford Street on April 27, 2013 in London, England. Photo from Canada.com

Protesters demonstrate outside the flagship Primark shop on Oxford Street on April 27, 2013 in London, England. Photo from Canada.com

News hit mid-day yesterday of Primark’s decision to pop by stateside. I think it was only a matter of time, actually, but the timing feels particularly spiteful and iconic given that today is the anniversary of the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh. Today is even being touted as Fashion Revolution Day by the fashion industry. Given that the policies in Bangladesh remain largely unchanged since the event — with many victim’s families still waiting to be ‘compensated’ for their loss, it leaves us with a sour taste in our mouth for the jump across the pond by one of the retailers who had attachments to the factory collapse. Primark has pledged many millions of dollars in response, which is more than some other retailers can say. Some retailers refused to pay at all.

Reading follow up pieces on customer habit’s as they relate to the factory collapse still haunts me to this day. Do you remember that Business of Fashion piece on fast fashion shopping habits? People were confronted with the implications of the clothes they were purchasing but shrugged it off. My first reaction was to be disgusted with them, but when you step back you have to also acknowledge it’s not entirely the consumer’s fault for making the most budget friendly decision. Placing the guilt of an entire industry into one purchase by one person feels very final to me. Particularly since buying ethically can be incredibly difficult due to class circumstances — shopping deserts, survival necessities limiting your budget — it all factors in just as much as what you’re buying. If we’re being real here, few ideas in the industry are original anyway (this TED talk is useful to approaching the idea of originality in the industry) so protecting creative property is typically a losing battle. This leaves knockoff culture thriving, and our guilt about being implicit in it, easily ignored. We are experts at disavowal, and we are practically professionals at hypocrisy. Because you know that when Primark eventually opens, we’re going to hear reports from fashion editors about the deals to be had, just as much as we heard from them about the outrage they felt over the loss of lives from the same company.

This is all to say: has fashion really heard the cries from Rana Plaza victims? Now we have a day in commemoration, at the very least, on top of the Compensation Fund. A fund which is still many millions of dollars short of its goal, more than a year later. We still have a long ways to go, I’d say. But the efforts of the Fashion Revolution team are a good starting point for consumers to champion.

Let’s hope all this works.

To find out ways in which you can participate in Fashion Revolution Day, go to their website. Enjoy.

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