Who Made My… PPE?
As I begin writing this, I’m not sure if it’s going to be a rant, if it ends up that way, I’m sorry; if it urges you to still question brands with the ‘Who Made My…’ question, even better.
The past month has been stressful for almost everyone on the planet, a pandemic on this scale is almost unheard of and many of us have struggled to adapt to our new reality. Whilst it is easy to dwell on the negatives, the positives are coming through almost every day. We have seen whole streets of people singing happy birthday to an elderly neighbour, swans in the canals of Venice, supermarkets dedicating special stashes of food for our NHS staff, and generally people pulling together to provide help in many forms.
Businesses have also taken on some active roles: Burger King giving away free kids meals, Dyson have been working to create a new ventilator, large hotel chains are still buying in their food supplies to donate to food banks, and LVMH and L’Oreal are using their cosmetics and perfume manufacturing facilities to make hand-sanitiser.
And then, we have seen articles about the likes of Zara manufacturing scrubs and masks… in the same week we get reports of factories in Bangladesh being forced to close after fashion brands massively reduce their requirements – with the result being garment workers are left without work, and you can be sure there’s no 80% furlough package set up for them.
Inditex, (the parent company of Zara) last week said the epidemic had resulted in it needing to shut nearly half its stores around the world and that it is now converting part of its textile manufacturing capacity in Spain to produce hospital gowns. So, reading between the lines: over half of the supply chain is now redundant, and those that remain are still going to be producing garments in the same sh*tty conditions for the same sh*tty wages whilst the brand basks in compliments for helping at such a crucial time. According to the Bangladeshi and Garment Exporters Association (BGMEA, Mar 2020) already as many as a million workers, just in Bangladesh, have been sent home without pay or knowing when their next working day might be because brands have cancelled (!) orders that have been made but remain unpaid for (with payment on delivery being another sh*tty clause that these factories have to agree to or risk losing business).
Similarly, UNIQLO’s parent company Fast Retailing (the clue is in the name folks), has requested 10 million masks to be made by it’s manufacturing partners in China. GAP, H&M and Canada Goose are also amongst those quickly turning manufacturing facilities into PPE generation sites. GAP actually told The Hollywood Reporter they have “established a small cross-brand and cross-functional team to leverage the global supply chain.” Leverage the global supply chain… Do you see a trend here? Those that are rushing to make PPE are those who operate huge manufacturing facilities in Asia, and who typically produce millions of garments every month. Is this their way to keep their manufacturers on side? Workers that are paid the least are likely to be the most desperate for continued work in situations like this. Is it a way to try and repair some of their reputation of treating people badly?
I’d also like to know, is anyone asking questions about social distancing in these facilities? Because we sure know the brand employees aren’t flying over there to audit. So here I look to you, please, please ask these brands how they’re making these “heroic” claims. There is a bigger issue here, and we should note, one that could lead to a more widespread plaguing of coronavirus to people much more vulnerable, and with less sturdy healthcare systems, than us.
FAST FASHION ISN’T ON LOCKDOWN. There is no pause in the impact of the fashion industry on people and environment just because people have to stay inside for a couple of months.
*I do not under any circumstances want to prevent healthcare workers getting what they need before anyone @s me*
Stay safe and well x