As the death toll from the factory collapse in Bangladesh spiraled ever upward (final count: more than 1,100), it’s become impossible to ignore the connection between what we buy and wear and what happens in the garment factories that make our clothes abroad. The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex is the deadliest accident in the history of the apparel industry, but it’s certainly not the first or, sadly, the last.
Another Bangladeshi factory fire caught fire just a couple weeks later, killing eight. Then a week after that, a ceiling collapsed in Cambodia on workers making Asics shoes, killing two. We wrote in April on reported conditions in a Zara factory that smacked of slave labor. Meanwhile, apparel factories are reported to unleash so much toxic effluent into Chinese rivers, you can tell what colors are in season by looking at the rivers.
When we first reported on the Bangladesh factory collapse, many of you were rightly appalled and asked the question, "Yeah, but what can we do?" No more burying your head in the back of the closet. We’ve come up with seven steps to take to be a more conscious shopper when it comes to environmental and labor concerns (political views of the retailer we’ll save for another day). And thankfully, you don’t have to dress exclusively in potato sacks or tie-dyed yoga pants. Read on for how to get your fashion karma and wear your platforms, too.
Illustrated by Zhang Qingyun