Be bold for change

On 8th March, we globally witnessed an outflow of support for women across the world - it was International Women's Day. A day when we were called upon to globally celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.



Instagram was buzzing with support as people from all walks of life posted their experiences, support, messages and stories in a collective shout out to #internationalwomensday. It was a wonderful collage of feelings and emotions, enforcing inspiration, unity, strength and empathy. Yet among all this positivity and hope, it stuck me, how are we uniting behind the women who make our clothes halfway across the world?
The garment manufacturing industry is one of the most female-dominated industries in the world. In China more than 70% of garment workers are women, in Bangladesh this rises to 80% and in Cambodia to 90%. Job opportunities for these women represent development. A route to a decent wage, dignified working conditions and having basic work security and rights. It's what International Women's Day is mean to represent - empowering women to enable them to move out of poverty, provide an education for their children (particularly girls) and become more independent.
The reality however is much different. Despite some action on the ground by the fashion industry to ensure ethical supply chains, women are still working for low wages, long hours and under poor working conditions where their welfare and health and safety are often ignored.



Recall the Rana Plaza factory collapse where 1,134 people were killed. Eight out of ten victims were women. As manufacturing has become more globalised, developing world countries are competing to produce for clothing companies by aiming to be as flexible and as low-cost as possible. The trend towards ever shorter lead times from catwalk to the high street are further perpetuating this with environmental standards and worker rights especially women's rights, being compromised. The mass integration of women into the garment manufacturing industry has created the opposite to women's empowerment. Factory owners have taken advantage of women's unequal position in society to have a cheaper, more docile and flexible workforce. The result is rather than challenging these women's subordination in society, it is having exactly the opposite effect.



This status quo can only exist of it is perpetuated. As consumers and especially as women consumers, we have an opportunity, even a responsibility to send a big shout out to all those women working to supply us with the fashion we love. We have the power to bring about change for these women by making considered and informed choices as to what clothes we buy and from whom. After all, thanks to organisations such as Fashion Revolution, the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Fashion Transparency Index, we now have more information at our finger tips than ever before.



As a fashion designer with a focus on sustainability, I've committed to ensuring that women manufacturing my designs are fairly treated, maintain their dignity and through their employment are empowered to have control over their lives. At this stage of my journey, I've chosen to stay local and use UK based manufacturers. It enables me to visit the factories personally so that I can be confident the women (and men) have fair and decent working conditions. This is my way of giving a shout out to the women behind the label.


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