Thursday, 2 May 2013

notes à la mode 33

These photos have been in a draft for some time and in my mind I had sort of written the text. Then came the horrible news from Bangladesh, of factory workers crushed to death while making clothes for Western buyers for about 38 euros or 50 dollars per month, and it made this post even more relevant. This news makes me both mad and sad, and this video by BBC's South Asia correspondent broke my heart. After watching it I opened my wardrobe and looked at the cheaper labels to see where they were made. I found one T-shirt made in Bangladesh. The only comfort is knowing that it wasn't manufactured in that particular factory or the one that burned down about six months ago.

I can only hope that this kind of news turns us all into more conscious buyers, that we start becoming aware of where our clothes come from and who is making them. More importantly, what is the quality of that person's life?

There are many labels out there with their ethical standards intact. Some time ago I was looking for clothes to wear at home and I found myself spending quite some time viewing the website of Eileen Fisher, a responsible American women’s clothing retailer with a wonderful concept.

The images show items from the latest collection of Eileen Fisher and they serve my needs. When you don't have to show up at an office, and adhere to a dress code, that doesn't mean that you are willing to work from home in your pyjamas or sweatpants. At least that is something I'm not interested in. I start my day by getting dressed and I like wearing something comfortable that is also stylish, which means that I don't necessarily have to change if I have to run errands. When I know that I don't have to go anywhere I like putting on something that also suits my yoga practice, without any of that hippie or sporty look.

When you buy an Eileen Fisher design you are buying eco friendly clothing made from, for example, fair trade organic cotton (see a short video on the website called Organic cotton starts in Peru). You know exactly where your clothes come from and you also know that the designer supports and gives back to that community. You are buying quality fabrics produced with social responsibility.

Another important fact is that Eileen Fisher employees are treated well. The employees own one-third of the company and they also get twenty-five percentage of the profit.

On the Eileen Fisher website, in a section called Ampersand, there are plenty of inspiring stories and videos. One of my favourite stories is The Story of Silk. Another video that I liked is called Bobby Ahn: making your jeans. Bobby Ahn used to be a dentist. His parents, factory owners in Los Angeles, faced bankruptcy when their major customer decided to move its production offshore and Bobby Ahn stepped in to turn things around.

I didn't write this post to send the message out there that we should stop buying cheaper clothes made in countries like Bangladesh. Not all factories mistreat their workers, and by buying these clothes we are supporting employment in poorer countries. However, we need to become more conscious buyers. We have to demand that workers are treated like human beings; that their working conditions are secure, even though it means paying a little extra. I believe that kind of awareness will only make us feel better wearing our clothes and valuing them more.

photo credit:
Eileen Fisher


  1. I always check the labels of the clothes I buy. There are big high street fashion brands that make their clothes in countries like Bangladesh and they are not cheap. I wouldn't mind paying that price if I knew that a bigger perocentage of that price went into the wedges of the people who make those clothes, and not into a bigger profit for the company. But because of this lack of ethics I am happy whenever I discover a conscious brand. And that's why I like to support brands that manufacture their products locally.

  2. What a great post! Loved reading the silk story ... so romantic - and then democratized! I too prefer to buy locally and I think that the consumer is shifting its focus to locally made as well using local raw materials. I think the 80's/90's and it's expansion/globalization allowed for off shore production to become a rational choice for designers and keep costs (and quality sometimes) down, but these days, I sense a shift back to locally produced. And that's why I love something handmade, locally sourced materials, something unique and special. (Make your own I say! - if you can!?) And that's why today I purchased some Italian made lace and will be making something special for a friend. Okay, so not a perfect choice for mass produced - but, were making our indent in production and quality somewhere in the chain! Yes I agree with Ada, I have seen 'High Street' brands that are not cheap coming out of places like Bangladesh.. it is disheartening! I like this quote of Vivienne Westwood's (from my post yesterday on Wool)... "If Wool is King, Silk is the Queen, Cotton is the Aunt and Linen is the Uncle" - keep it all in the family I say!:)

    1. love that quote ;-)

  3. I am so glad you wrote this Lisa and I can see you wearing all of the Eileen pieces - just don't tell Asi I said that ;)

    It's definitely in my mind when I buy things, I know that crooked seams on a garment from China means it was probably made by a child and that bothers me. I usually try and think of reasons to buy something more well made as it always lasts better too (I wore a pair of Miu Miu shoes today that must be 8 years old and got a compliment on them at Zandra Rhode's event!)

    Hope you are well!
    xo Mary Jo

  4. A wonderful cause and beautiful clothes! I am loving the brand already. :)

    Very sad to hear about the tragedy, though. The only thing that didn't shock me was the salary. When I moved countries just over 10 years ago, $50 was an average salary in any provincial town in Russia. Moscow, St. Petersburg and Co. were different, they were always more like Europe, but the rest of the country lived on $50-100 a month. It's changing now, of course, but hearing that somebody somewhere earns this amount doesn't necessarily give me a heart attack. What does, though, is how those people were treated... THAT really IS shocking and must change.



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