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5 Things to Read About the Tragic Bangladeshi Garment Factory Fire

Image via Getty

On April 24, a fire broke out at garment factory center Rena Plaza, in Savar, a town on the outskirts of Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. The most recent count puts the death toll at 377 which, according to TIME, makes it "almost certainly the worst accident in the history of the garment industry," though incidents such as this one are hardly rare: in the region surrounding Dhaka alone, there have been over 700 factory deaths in the last decade. Due to a complicated system of subcontracting, there's very little transparency about which companies sourced items from factories located in Rena Plaza, however, both British retailer Primark and Canadian brand Joe Fresh, owned by Loblaw, have acknowledged working with Rena Plaza factories and pledge to compensate victims and families affected by the tragedy. Spanish label Mango and American company JCPenney have also admitted they have manufacturing ties to the factories. Though United Colors of Benetton shirts were photographed at the accident site (by news agency AFP), the Italian brand later denied ties to Rena Plaza factories. The severity of this accident has led to widespread media coverage, with many calling for stricter labor standards regulation at overseas factories and asking consumers to rethink their dependence on fast fashion.

Some recommended reading:

Fast, Cheap, Dead: Shopping and the Bangladesh Factory Collapse (TIME)
"International retailers can do more to advocate safer standards at textile factories that manufacture their wares, in Bangladesh and elsewhere. Customers can do their part by putting a little pressure on their favorite brands, though that would require placing as much value on the cost of a life as you might on the cost of a T-shirt."

Factory Collapse Spurs Concern Only If $6 Bikinis Stay (Bloomberg)
"The shift to Bangladesh has created an $18 billion manufacturing industry, yet one that is marred by factories with poor electrical wiring, an insufficient number of exits and little firefighting equipment. More than 1,000 Bangladesh garment workers have died in fires and other disasters since 2005, according to the International Labor Rights Forum, an advocacy group in Washington. A November fire at a factory making clothes for companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. killed 112 people. 
… 
'They could probably afford to invest in their factories, but it’s a tough market and it’s very difficult to up prices,' Cavill said. 'The consumer may need to start getting used to higher prices.'”

Bangladesh Lacks Factory, Fire Inspectors For Huge Industry (NPR)
"Bangladesh has the lowest wages in the world, $37 a month, and their minimum wage is raised only every three years to the point where even some of the global brands call out and say, we need to raise the minimum wage sooner. What's worse than the minimum wage is the fact that workers aren't able to speak up and negotiate for better terms. So in 2010, the last time workers pushed for a raise in the minimum wage, they were holding protests and marches, and a lot of the people who were organizing workers were arrested and put in jail and tortured."

"And one of those worker-organizers was killed last year, Aminul Islam, and his body was found with signs of torture. And the workers at Rana Plaza knew there were cracks in the wall. The bank workers in the same complex were sent home. But the factory workers, the garment factory workers went into work because the, you know, granted the building owner told the factory owners it was safe to go in. But the factory owners are under a huge amount of pressure to keep open, to keep making their deadlines."

Poor countries can keep workers safe and still escape poverty (The Washington Post)
"The competition is so fierce that there is a collective action problem where the owners aren’t willing to bear even the smallest costs. There’s also a collective action problem on the other side, with the buyers, who are looking for the cheapest possible price for the product and aren’t willing to raise that price a bit if their competitors aren’t. It feeds into a vicious cycle. That’s why I think you need some kind of external intervention in terms of unions, technical assistance for a stronger inspectorate, a stronger ILO, as, on their own, the companies aren’t going to be able to overcome that competitive collective action problem."

Bangladesh factory collapse: Who really pays for our cheap clothes? (CNN)
"Business must stop just holding up its hands to say: 'It is not our fault — they bought it.' The responsibility for ensuring that a product was made with human rights in mind has to fall somewhere, and the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights says that it falls jointly to states and mass corporate businesses to 'protect, respect and remedy' human rights.
In short, the brands, not the consumer, are the ones who must take responsibility for the endemic problems that this industry faces."

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Canadian Customers Lash Out at Joe Fresh After Bangladesh Clothing Factory Collapse

It would be verging on the impossible for you to have not heard about the Bangladesh clothing factory collapse that took place this past week and cost the lives of at least 377 people. Moreover, it's difficult to ignore the anger that's currently being targeted towards one of Canada's largest clothing retailers, Joe Fresh, a Loblaw Inc. subsidiary that's currently seeking to expand into the U.S.

Along with dozens of other retailers, Joe Fresh sold clothing made at the factory  where workers were paid a pitiful $37 a month. Not an hour, not a day, not even a week. A month. Obviously this has irked some shoppers and, as a result, Joe Fresh has faced a scathing backlash from Canadian consumers. Just browsing its Facebook page reveals all manner of irate comments:

"Because of this tragedy, I discovered that $37/month was the going wage for the workers in your building… It makes me sick to my stomach that I was party to this by buying from you. You may be listening, but will you change anything? Doubt it," wrote Melissa Thibodeau.

"I am considering bagging up all our Joe branded clothing (shoes, coats, etc) and dropping them off at my local store. This is the only brand I buy new & often but my eyes have been opened to how close to home unethical practices are. 'Hot new trends' are not worth deathly-cruel workplaces. Change," demands Monica Poitras.

But before we join the crowds of pitchfork wielding villagers, shouldn't consumers honestly question their own ignorance at not knowing how a shirt can be produced for $6? You know that cheap cotton garment you'll maybe wear for one season before it ends up fading and getting tossed alongside your locally-sourced, organic farmer's market carrots. Joe Fresh is taking the full force of public anger right now, but are they alone in their exploitation of cheap labour? Should it even be called "exploitation" when Bangladesh relies heavily on fabric production to boost its economy?

There are many questions to be asked and, as we quickly become more socially conscious consumers, you're probably wondering how you can help in preventing disasters like this from happening again and provoke safer working conditions. Maybe you think buying "Made in Canada" goods is the answer, but MSN's Style Swept recently wrote a very interesting post about how the "Made In Canada" label can be added through a variety of legal loopholes, i.e. sewing on a few buttons in Burlington can warrant the home country label. Then, as I already mentioned, moving production away from countries like Bangladesh and China can be even more detrimental.

It's a Catch 22 situation. In a statement released over the weekend, Loblaws says it's sending senior representatives to Bangladesh to get a precise response on what caused the tragedy. Today the company is also joining other retailers and the Retail Council of Canada in an urgent meeting of its Responsible Trade Committee to discuss how to address this unfortunate situation and be a part of the solution.

They are far from the only guilty party, but it seems Joe Fresh is flying into crisis mode and, though they don't have immediate answers, the company is at least taking steps to drive for change. To that end, do you think this tragedy will influence your shopping habits going forward?

Image via Joe Fresh

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Louise Roe’s New Collection for Stylist Pick

Get ready, our favourite British fashionista, Louise Roe has designed yet another fab new collection for Stylist Pick. The Fashion Presenter has had several ranges with the customer-orientated company and her latest collection is set to be one of her best, as it draws inspiration from her ultimate style icons like Bianca Jagger and Miranda Kerr.

Victoria’s Secret supermodel Miranda Kerr owns a classic sense of style and can somehow manage to wear the simplest of pieces yet and make the outfit look outrageously glamorous. Style icon Bianca Jagger, on the other hand, was the one woman who everybody fought to dress during the Seventies with her exotic looks adding to her glamorous sense of style. So what can we expect from a collection that combines both of these ladies’ sense of style? 

Key to Louise’s new range are the 1) triangular diamante trimmed Maisy earrings, £15, which she designed with a Grecian style column dress in mind, and the 2) statement bangle Heather, £18, which would also easily tie in with this kind of look. Both pieces are very Bianca Jagger, right? As she often opted for exotic Grecian influenced outfits and tons of eye catching accessories.

Her brand new 3) Tallulah statement heels can be all yours for just £40 and are available in eye popping blues or oranges. They’re versatile enough to be worn with a nice summery dress or even a pair of skinny jeans, and you’ve got to agree that these are an item that we would definitely see Louise wearing herself.

The cute 4) Tiggy brown leather handbag, £45, is a piece that we could easily envision Miranda carrying, be it out and about on a shopping trip or even whilst playing her part as Mom. Or if you fancy something a little bit more bold in time for summer, the yellow, stud embellished 5) Clemmie bag, £35, is a must. 

Check out Louise’s entire collection on Stylist Pick

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Jeremy Laing x Arts & Crafts, a Limited-Edition Collection to Benefit MusiCounts

Music and fashion go together like, er, let's go with the analogy of spinach dip and pumpernickel bread. They each rely heavily on each other artistically, intersecting visual art and sound for mostly commercial purposes. Of course, once in a blue moon these two creative spheres may unite for the greater good, as is the case with the new collaboration between indie music label Arts & Crafts and Canadian designer Jeremy Laing.

These two powerhouses have joined forces to create an original line of apparel, featuring design collaborations between Arts & Crafts musicians and noted Canadian visual artists like Derek Sullivan, Jessica Eaton, Sojourner Truth Parsons, Niall McClelland and Jason McLean. Each artist chose an Arts & Crafts musician to draw inspiration from and used their music to inspire their designs. The result — which is artistically directed and produced by Laing — is a unique execution that represents the work of uber-cool Canadian musicians Broken Social Scene, Feist, Timber Timbre and Dan Mangan through colour, pattern and design.

"It was fun to pair some of my favourite Canadian visual artists, several of whose works I have collected personally, with complementary artists on the Arts & Crafts roster," says Laing, the self-taught designer who's now become a staple within the Canadian fashion industry. "Based on similarities of approach and aesthetic, I invited each visual artist to interpret aspects of each musician's work. The results are diverse, surprising and cool!"

 
Left to right: Arts & Crafts x Derek Sullivan; Timbre Timber x Niall McLelland; Feist x Sojourner Truth Parsons

These tees are typically Urban Outfitters cool, but what makes the $75 price more justifiable than your average UO fare is that 100 percent of the profits raised from the unisex collection will then be donated to MusiCounts, whose mission is to ensure that children in Canada — regardless of socioeconomic circumstances and cultural background — have access to a music program through their school.

The collection is a limited-edition release and, in true Canuck style, will be available online and at select Hudson’s Bay stores across Canada, beginning Monday, May 6.

Images via Arts & Crafts

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Shanina Shaik Hits the Shores of Sunny Tulum for Revolve Clothing’s Summer 2013 Lookbook

Just felt the temperature soar a few degrees higher? You can probably thank reality TV star-turned-Victoria’s Secret Angel Shanina Shaik, whose latest set of images are generating enough heat to thaw out even the southernmost parts of the globe.

Shot in sunny Tulum for Revolve Clothing’s Summer 2013 lookbook, the pictures are a white-hot combination of Shaik’s ridiculous genetic code, photographer Chris Shintani’s camera and Quintana Roo’s world-famous beaches. There is also some clothing of the denim cut-offs and swimsuit variety, though that tends to take a backseat to the rest of the action.

Since appearing in Make Me a Supermodel back in 2008 Shaik’s star has been rising steadily. She’s not only walked for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show but for Chanel, Jason Wu, Stella McCartney and L’Wren Scott, as well as starring in advertisements for General Pants, Revlon, Seafolly and Urban Outfitters. Her latest shoot bears a striking resemblance to the one lensed for Vogue Australia in January, but sometimes you can’t have too much of a good thing.

If you listen carefully, you can hear Tyson Beckford crying low-sodium tears into his protein shake. 

Images: Revolve Clothing

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The Vogue Festival 2013: Steal Victoria’s Style for Less

This year’s Vogue Festival took place at the weekend with an amazing lineup that included Vivienne Westwood, Donatella Versace and Victoria Beckham. It was an extra busy schedule which was filled with very insightful presentations and interviews with such notables as photographer Mario Testino who talked about his career.

The story on everybody’s lips today, however, has to be Victoria Beckham’s revelatory interview, where she seemed to let her notorious guard down and revealed her insecurities about starting a career in fashion. She explained that at the beginning there were a lot of raised eyebrows at the prospect of her entering the fashion world, which added to her nerves, but with time she persevered and proved her fashion designing credentials.

The interview really did show off Victoria’s fun side and she was even photographed leaving the festival with a pair of Minnie Mouse ears on her head! Minnie ears aside, Victoria opted for pieces from her own Fall 2013 collection for the occasion, proving that she really does design things that she would easily wear herself.

Her outfit consisted of a waterfall neck cut blouse and a three quarter length skirt — a look that’s easy to love. Inspired by her outfit, we found these waterfall jackets on the high street and online: 1) Warehouse grey zip detail drape jacket, £60; 2) Oasis waterfall grey leather jacket, £100; 3) Donna Karan at Net-a-Porter's paper taffeta cropped jacket, £1,060. 

For any of you, who weren't lucky enough to secure tickets to the Vogue festival, you can still get the next best thing by popping over to vogue.co.uk and checking out their coverage.

Images: WENN

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