Last week, Oxfam posted on its social channels that Australian cult fashion brand Gorman has released the information of its manufacturers.
What they’re talking about is a recent campaign by Oxfam called #whatshemakes – a consumer-led movement to encourage brands to pay a living wage to the women who make their clothes. The campaign came after a study that revealed that the wage women are making in textile factories is putting them below poverty line. The Deloitte study found that “On average, just 4% of the price of a piece of clothing sold in Australia goes toward workers’ wages in garment factories”
The post goes on to say: “Without this information it is extremely difficult to independently confirm whether workers are being treated fairly, safely, or how much they are paid. This is good news if you love Gorman’s clothes. It’s even better news for the women who make them.”
So what’s the big deal? They haven’t actually said they’ll pay a fair wage, have they?
Correct, but Gorman has taken the first step in the right direction. By publishing the names and locations of their factories they are allowing organisations like Greenpeace and Oxfam to walk in the doors and see what’s really going on. So while this information may not seem like a huge deal and we don’t know yet what’s going on behind closed doors, I can assure you that the work they’ve done to get this far is far far more than their less-than-sustainable competitors.
The fact is that most clothing manufacturers know that what’s going on in their factories is no good. That staff are forced to work overtime daily just to meet their quotas, that they’re not paid a living wage and that the conditions of the factories are substandard. So to actually release this information is a huge risk for a brand, unless they’ve made the bare minimum changes to their operations, and I’d say this is what Gorman has done.
Another reason it’s important is because it shows that Gorman has actually responded to the pressure put on the brand by organisations and consumers who are really pushing to make a difference in the fashion industry. It’s so easy for brands to ignore these pressures when people are still buying their clothes. And that’s the worst thing, most people aren’t actually willing to stop spending their money at retailers doing the wrong thing, so what’s their incentive? A couple of annoying activists posting on their Facebook pages?
Gorman has said yes, we know we’re doing the wrong thing, and we’re going to right our wrongs. Transparency is the first step, the second is to make sure everyone’s physically and mentally safe in their working environment, and the third is to make a public commitment to pay everyone in their supply chain a living wage.
This is no easy step, but it’s the first one, and it deserves rewarding. Let’s keep it going.
You can let big brands know loud and clear that the women working in their factories making your clothes must be paid a living wage.