Remember Who Created Them: Celebrating Garment Workers


Paris, France – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the world. The fashion industry, with millions of workers who make it up, has been one of the hardest hit sectors. At the onset of the pandemic, exploitation, greenwashing and racewashing in the clothing industry were exposed on a much larger scale. This is one of the reasons for the Remember who created them campaign. With the will to discuss openly systemic failures perpetuating injustice within the fashion industry and giving a voice to affected workers, the all-female movement is there to raise awareness. The movement talks about existing inequalities within the clothing industry. It also celebrates the expensive labor that goes into making the clothes we wear.

It’s fair to say that the exploitation of workers has been a fundamental part of the fashion industry’s business model. Although fashion is one of the most profitable professional sectors, its main driving force is the women workers producing all clothing, 80% of whom are women of color. These workers lack basic rights, fair wages and recognition of their work.

Although the industry is worth up to $ 3 trillion, the average garment worker earns about $ 96 per month. Needless to say, the business model that the fashion industry has created and has been practicing for years benefits both the production of the products and their sales rather than the latter. A system that benefits the people who make the clothes is the lineage of the industry.

Garment workers’ rights neglected amid pandemic

The situation became even more worrying with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the economic decline in all sectors, the clothing sectors have implemented more severe cost-cutting measures. Retailers decreased or canceled their orders, limited the workforce and refused to pay for work done before the outbreak. This has left millions of garment workers with sharply reduced working hours, unpaid wages or even unemployment.

The COVID-19 outbreak has also revealed a great imbalance between suppliers and buyers. Those who produce the clothes themselves are at the bottom of the supply chain. The system worked on the “produce first, pay second”Base for years. Suppliers, usually based in low-income countries, produce large quantities of clothing on a daily basis. However, they have to wait weeks, sometimes not months, until they receive compensation from buyers and retailers.

The Center for Global Workers’ Rights and the Worker Rights Consortium conducted research with PennState University. Together, they discovered that since the start of the pandemic, retail companies have held at least $ 16.2 billion for canceled orders. This research has exposed companies not to pay their garment workers for orders already produced. Some of them include “Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Topshop, Primark, Forever 21, Free People, Nike and Adidas”.

Remember who made them: the all-female movement

“We all love clothes. Let us remember who made them. Support the garment workers. This is the slogan of Remember Who Made Them, an all-female movement that raises awareness of the the importance of celebrating garment workers, their work and their crafts. The founders of the campaign, Veneto La Manna, Swatee Deepak, Devi Leiper O’Malley and Ruby Johnson define themselves as a group of “concerned feminists” drawn from the fields of art, sustainability, climate activism and philanthropy. Through Remember Who Made Them, they strive to put the safety and well-being of the women who make the clothes first. All their job is to support a new fashion economy.

As the movement is a digital campaign, it operates primarily on three social media. It includes a website, Instagram, and a podcast of the same title. The site offers resources offering a deeper perspective on various subjects in the fields of fashion, equality and sustainable development. These resources include books, articles, documentaries and series. In addition, it also actively promotes ongoing fundraising, which official bodies like the Clean Clothes Campaign and the Fashion Revolution will be organized. Otherwise, the funds go directly to aid in countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In addition, his Instagram is * the * educational hub for everything related to fashion and solidarity. With easy-to-follow infographics, bright designs and eye-catching illustrations, her posts educate on key terms in the fashion solidarity economy. It also highlights the most important issues in the industry and respects workers by directly presenting the importance of their trade. However, most of the work is done through the Remember Who Made Them podcast.

Digital campaigns educate on the dark side of the fashion industry

In its six-part podcast series, Remember Who Made Them deepens conversations with fashion advocates, philanthropists, social justice workers and sustainability experts. The podcast addresses the main issues in the industry. These issues range from problematic slogan charity t-shirts, racism, cultural appropriation, fighting unions and taking action as individual consumers.

The guests the podcast brings are some of the most inspiring people working collectively to challenge the existing and severely flawed system. These guests want to create a new fashion reality with garment workers and their rights at the forefront of the movement.

Some of the organizations featured in the series include Remake World, an activist organization, who created the #PayUp campaign get workers the payment arrears they deserve; the Solidarity Center, “The largest labor rights organization based in the United States”; Business and Human Rights Resource Center, which works closely with brands to encourage corporate responsibility and reduce worker abuse. In addition, there are organizations like Dabindu collective in Sri Lanka, Workers’ border committee in Mexico and Alliance for minimum wages in Asia and the Garment and Allied Workers Union in North India.

Give workers a voice

Yet the most remarkable aspect of the Remember Who Made Them campaign is that it gives voice to garment workers themselves. It truly celebrates the work, craftsmanship and sacrifices made along the way. Jeeva, a worker from Katunayake, Sri Lanka, said that in the country where the fashion industry is worth up to $ 5 billion, only 3% of overall profits go to the workers themselves. The average hourly rate does not exceed $ 0.50 per person.

Saira Feroz, a home textile worker from Karachi, Pakistan, told Remember Who Made Them that although she works from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. most days of the year, her job doesn’t give her any contracts. She has no employee rights and her salary paid twice a year only allows her to cover basic expenses. “We just want to be paid regularly and we want to be paid fairly. (…) We just want dignity. We hear from Saira in episode three.

Collective effort is the key to system change

The fashion industry is an incredibly flawed machine built on systems that neglect the rights and needs of its key players. Fashion wouldn’t exist without the dedicated garment workers who produce these garments every day. However, millions of them still lack dignity, fair wages and security. With the work of committed activists and philanthropists like the women of Remember Who Made Them, these issues will no longer remain hidden.

With wide recognition of holdings within the fashion industry, more women can join and form unions. Greater trust among workers is necessary for the induced productivity, well-being and respect for the work they do. Consumers, however, hold the power to decide how they choose to support garment workers and thank them for their work. At the same time, they could build collective models celebrating the garment workers at its heart.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

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