Anyone who knows me well will know I am a TOTAL bargain hunter. My dad has always said that my mum would walk an extra mile to save 1p on a tin of beans and I definitely take after her.
Today I was in River Island and saw the most gorgeous dress (I loved it, others may beg to differ). It was black with brightly covered florals over it and even better, it was on sale!
I tried it on and fell totally in love….. apart from the fact it was too big! (P.S. sorry to any male readers out there – this is turning into a big of a ‘confessions of a shopaholic’ – but hold tight).
I asked the shop assistant if there were any more sizes available, and unfortunately there wasn’t, and I left the shop wondering if I could just deal with it being a little big.
Since January I have actively tried to only buy second hand clothing – a challenge I have loved – so as to minimise the amount of money I spend funding labour trafficking, caught up in the fashion industry. But it’s crazy how the labels and pretty patterns can blind you of the dark reality behind high street fashion stores. It was almost as if for a few seconds I could totally forget about the exploitation endured in order to make my beloved dress.
Later I came across this article online exploring sweatshops in the UK. I’d say I’m pretty clued into the presence of sweatshops caught up in fashion supply chains, but I had no idea there was sweatshops here in the UK.
In the article Debbie Coulter, Head of Programmes at the Ethical Trading Initiative, explained that ‘£3 per hour is an average wage [in the factories in the UK], although she has spoken to women who were being paid as little as £1 per hour.’
‘New Look’s Anders Kristiansen told the Telegraph this week: “Many of these factories have unsafe conditions with fire escapes blocked up, workers exploited and paid far below minimum wage. What happens if there is another massive fire, what will it take for people to wake up?”’
The article explains further that ‘typically, the workers being exploited are women from different countries who speak little English. Some come to UK on a six-month visa and work every hour they can before returning home.’
This results in these huge factories becoming breeding grounds for labour trafficking. There have already been reports of raids and prosecutions yet factories continue to open the following day under a different name.
As anti-human trafficking activists I think it’s so important that we look at every daily decision we make. Human trafficking and exploitation is so often tainting our clothes, chocolate, coffee, bananas, phones, gosh the list could go on.
When speaking to the Norwegian director for Hope for Justice, at a conference I was at in April, he explained that, ‘where there is labour work, there is labour trafficking.’
Hopefully this will get you thinking the next time you go shopping, could you try and maybe throw in a Fairtade item or take a nosy at ethical stores online first? And help fight human trafficking by your clothes shop!