Style With Substance S2 EP14: Support Garment Workers
Image: Birdsong / Photographer: Rachel Manns
Birdsong are leading the revolution in ethical working practises for fashion brands. We explore the way in which the London based brand are supporting garment workers.
Series Two, Episode Fourteen
Sexism and Garment Workers
In episode 13 with Natasha at Akojo Market, we discussed the valuable role that can be played in lifting up African Artisans and makers in order for them to grow their businesses. This weeks episode is in a similar vein but we’re a bit closer to home. In 2019 the UK fashion industry was estimated to be worth £118 billion. However it takes a major Fashion CEO just 4 days to earn what a female garment worker in Bangladesh will earn in her entire lifetime. So it’s clear that a huge gap in wealth exists in the industry but why is this. Women, specifically women of colour make up 80% of the garment maker workforce. It’s safe to say that sexism and racism play key roles in reducing the value of the work done. Even though the work is highly skilled and technical so many of us still look down our noses at the people who make our clothes.
A Blueprint For Future Fashion Businesses
In this episode we speak to Sophie Slater, the Co Founder of Birdsong. The brand is widely recognised as being a pioneer in the social impact and sustainability spaces. 90% of women’s organisations in London have had funding cuts since 2010. Birdsong work specifically with these charities, supporting the incredible makers and skilled artisans that exist in the UK. The brand aims to create a blueprint for a more localised, sustainable and fair fashion industry. It’s the very definition of slow fashion. The charities and organisations that Birdsong work with have said that through their partnership they feel less vulnerable to funding cuts. We’ve spoken about the dangers of the ‘Made in UK’ tag on your clothes, that somehow negate the need for any work place responsibility on the part of brands. As we found out recently, factories in England are just as guilty of labour rights violations as those in the global South. Lockdown left many garment workers, especially migrant workers open to exploitation.
Sophie is incredibly knowledgeable about supply chains in general, but knows her own like the back of her hand. Birdsong is more a community than it is a business. She is truly inspiring and Birdsong is proof that the old misogynistic and colonialist way of doing business is outdated and is not fit for purpose.
With thanks to our amazing guest Sophie Slater, Co Founder of Birdsong.
Mentioned in Episode
To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World, by Lucy Siegle // Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index featuring H&M // Report by Trust For London // Hidden Figures // Inside Misguided: Made In Manchester // In The Style Documentary // Fixing Fast Fashion by the Environmental Audit Committee
Host Lucy Kebbell
Theme created by Joe Murgatroyd
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