This week (18-24 April) is Fashion Revolution Week when people are encouraged to look at who made their clothes and what working conditions they labour under. It’s nearly three years since more than 1000 garment workers were killed when the factory complex, Rana Plaza, collapsed in Pakistan. Many of the workers were making clothes for us to buy (cheaply) in the West.
Since then, organisations such as Fashion Revolution, Clean Clothes Campaign and Labour Behind the Label have campaigned to improve the working conditions, wages and rights of garment workers around the world.
During Fashion Revolution Week we are encouraged to ask the question: Who Made My Clothes? Even though I buy (nearly) all of my clothes second-hand someone still made them. So I thought I would investigate Laura Ashley, who made the jumper I’ve been wearing all winter long (purchased at Barnardos in Devizes). Although the label says Made in Great Britain (perhaps revealing its age) I wanted to know where their clothes are manufactured in 2017
I have a very cosy image of Laura Ashley: homespun tunics and classic English Rose dresses. A few years ago I explored the Laura Ashley exhibition at the Bath Museum of Fashion here.
I was rather surprised to learn, then, that the company is now owned by the MUI Group of Malaysia. The original Laura Ashley factory in Wales was closed in 2005; its current site in Powys manufactures paint, wallpaper and curtains but I wanted to find out where their clothes are made. But, short of going into a store, I couldn’t find anything on their website about manufacturers and working conditions.
Buried in the Laura Ashley website, though, is a Social Compliance Policy, dated from 2007. They state that Laura Ashley should ensure ‘as far as possible’ that any subcontractor complies with their Code of Practice, which says the usual things about no child or forced labour, fair wages that are at least minimum or local wage, reasonable working environment and being able to join unions, or “in countries where the creation and joining of a trade union and collective bargaining is not permitted by law, the operators…or the suppliers should strive to foster parallel means of workers’ representation.” Although you could argue what are they doing working in countries that don’t allow people to unionise in the first place?
So I have now done the usual things and posted on twitter etc to see if I can find out any more about where their clothes are now made and the working conditions of those who make them. Will try to keep you updated!