The Barriers of Fair Fashion

Op het Fair Fashion Fair in Leuven mocht ik het panelgesprek over de (beleids)uitdagingen voor meer eerlijke mode leiden. Zo heb ik het ingeleid, met een verhaal uit Bangladesh.

I want to start this evening by sharing a story about something that happened six years ago. Because of course it’s no coincidence that we are here today, the day after we commemorate the collapse of a RMG factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Has it really been six years already? Because it feels like yesterday. It feels like yesterday that numerous garment workers saw the cracks in the Rana Plaza building but were still forced to go inside because otherwise they would be fired. And then the building collapsed and more than a thousand of them died. More than 2000 others got injured, some of them very gravely. Just last year I went back to Bangladesh and I’ve met some of the injured. They are survivors, but they are barely surviving. Meeting them has had a profound impact on me. They suffer because of our fashion. Because we like our fashion cheap, and new, and we like to wear something different for every event, and what we don’t like is to think about the consequences of purchases such as that.

We are not just talking about the structural integrity of buildings. But also about the physical integrity of the women working in these buildings. Just two days ago I published an article based on a report by Fair Wear Foundation that was very clear about this: sexual harassment happens in the RMG supply chain. And it happens more often when brands put pressure on factory managers.

So draw your conclusions. Well you already have, since you are all here.

I am very proud and pleased to be here among such an engaged audience; an audience that engaged to change the way we see fashion. We are here today, to talk about how we as researchers, innovators, designers, policy makers, brands, retailers and consumers – because all of us are consumers and all of us wear clothes – can try and help ask for or create a different kind of fashion, a more fair kind of fashion, a kind of fashion where no one has to die for.

Met dank aan Green Office KU Leuven en Fashion Revolution Belgium.
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Foto © Emilie Verbeke (

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