Get Fashion-Informed Australia.
The third edition of the Australian Fashion Report was launched by Baptist World Aid on the eve of the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, a tragedy which cut short the lives of 1,136 garment workers. If you are being introduced to this report for the first time congratulations, this tool will change the way you shop for fashion.
The Australian Fashion Report sheds light on what the industry and individual companies are doing to address forced labour, child labour and exploitation. Each report – since the launch of the first in 2013 – has tracked the progress within the industry. The change since 2013 has been significant. In this edition Baptist World Aid have assessed 87 companies, awarding each a grade from A to F based on the strength of their labour rights management systems to mitigate the risk of exploitation in their supply chain. This report marks a significant expansion of the work of previous reports adding 50% more companies, updating the research and adopting a new and enhanced rating tool. 78% of the companies assessed directly engaged in the research process – up from 54% in the first report.
This Years Surprises.
One of the biggest news stories to come out of this years report so far has been the Gorman Fashion Revolution debacle. Gorman has long been one of Australia’s darling labels that had it’s beginnings as Gorman Organics and has grown over time to be loved and respected for their quality design, use of organic fabric (which has been on a decline) and all round general awesomeness. As it stands, it looks like Factory X, Gorman’s parent company has severely flunked the labels credibility with their ‘F’ rating on the Australian Fashion Report. Then Gorman the label has created a bit of a social media boo-boo by posting a picture of a factory employee with a ‘I made your clothes’ sign indirectly indicating a relationship with the ethical manufacturing values promoted by the Fashion Revolution campaign. Which has since prompted an online petition asking the label for transparency in their manufacturing process. While this all might look a little be negative for the label and the industry, it’s a good example of the creeping-demand from consumers that fashion labels can no longer hide their manufacturing behind beautiful imagery.
My surprises for this year were that brand Tigerlily (whose beautiful designs are pictured above) who I contacted as part of my fashion revolution campaign received a C rating. So it will be interesting to read the manufacturing documentation that they have promised to include on their website in the near future. It’s also surprising that companies like General Pants, who stock Nudie Jeans (who are celebrated on shop ethical) have come in at an F grading. And that companies like K-mart who are selling items for under $10 come in with a B grade. I think this report goes to show the complexity of the manufacturing system and the disadvantages we as consumers are at in trying to decipher the documentation that is provided by the brands themselves as well as external audits like this one. It’s also important to note the huge difference between ethics and environment. The Baptist World Aid Australian Fashion Report is primarily focused on the ethics of manufacturing. It looks, for most part, at the way that humans are treated in the supply chain. While there are some nods to animal ethics and environment the focus is creating a safer and more fair fashion industry for the employees. So if, for example, you are shopping for vegan products, an ‘A’ grade brand might not necessarily fit your standards. The key to getting the right product for you is to use tools like the Australian Fashion Report as a starting off point for your own research to shop based on your values and buy items that are fit for purpose.