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Fashion Revolution Day commemorations of the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed 1,133 workers in 2013 wrapped up April 24, but that doesn't mean you should stop asking #whomadeyourclothes.
After much foot-dragging, the Italian clothing company recently announced it would cough up $1.1 million to a UN fund for the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. Applause? Not quite. Protesters targeted hundreds of Benetton stores last week, calling them out for failing to pay their share. Benetton may have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord, but a new report from Human Rights Watch says abuses and violations are still being overlooked or ignored by inspections carried out on behalf of buyers – even at factories covered by the accord. More support for unions and workers who speak up is needed, says HRW.
The kings of fast fashion are tough to peg. They buy more organic cotton than any other apparel brand in the world, though only a small collection of items is strictly eco. And their high-profile Conscious collections are hard to track down in stores (including this year’s Conscious Exclusive line featuring recycled-sequin dresses and this trench in Tencel, a greener version of rayon made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood pulp). Nice to see that the company has promised to pay its 850,000 textile workers a living wage by 2018. It’s been purging chems and has impressive green targets, but can a dirt-cheap, flimsily made fast-fashion garment ever be sustainable?
Need a little more protection from the rain? MEC and Patagonia both offer some options with recycled polyester shells, but Portland-based Nau has to be commended for sticking exclusively to more planet-friendly textiles. This one’s a blend of recycled poly and organic cotton with a reversible reflective-tape belt for cyclists. You can find some men’s and women’s Nau jackets at MEC and Sporting Life stores, but you’ll find more at nau.com (they cover duty fees). Like MEC’s and Patagonia’s, they’re mostly made overseas (by long-term manufacturers in Taiwan and China). Also like Patagonia’s and MEC’s, Nau’s waterproof coatings are now made without C8 (aka dodgy PFOA). Bonus: Nau gives 2 per cent of every sale to green charities.
Anyone who still believes eco fashion is all for hippies and tree-huggers needs to check out Miik. This Toronto designer offers durable, timeless, well-tailored, office-friendly threads made of rayon from certified organic bamboo. Rayon factories overseas can be guilty of major pollution, but these guys are committed to capturing and recycling any processing chems rather than dumping them downstream. Also, Miik fabrics are Oeko-Tex-certified so there are no hazardous chemicals on the final fabric. Even better, Miik is actually designed, milled, dyed, cut and sewn here in Toronto. miik.ca.
I’m not a big trend chaser, but if your inner love child is just itching to come out, you’ll be happy to know the 70s are back on runways. That includes ponchos and blanket-like jackets. Of course, most of the ones on shelves are made way too cheaply offshore at the expense of workers and the environment. Not Honeybea Designhive’s. The Toronto designer artfully stitches together old sweaters and blankets into asymmetric shawls and side-swept ponchos, so no textiles had to be grown, watered, sprayed, dyed or shipped to get to you. I’ve got one myself and love it. honeybea.ca.