Joe Fresh’s Bangladesh Nightmare: Who Really is to Blame?

Posted on Apr 27 2013 - 12:00am by Grace

By now you’ve probably already heard about Joe Fresh’s fall from Grace. How could a company so loved, that seemed to represent so much good be okay with having its Bangladesh workers working in a substandard building? Didn’t they care that people could lose their lives in this building? That children would come home find out that their parent has died, or parents would come home to find out that their children died in their building?

bangladesh_building_collapseSource: Financial Post

In the collapse of a factory building that included Joe Fresh’s work space  230 people were killed this week. 230 people died a very avoidable death, as all that they needed was a safe work environment, but instead they were to work in a dilapidated building that would crash and take their lives.

joe fresh bangladeshSource: The Globe and Mail

Independent Toronto clothing maker Devorah Miller posted on her Red Thread Design blog: “Those tragedies happen because demand for low prices pushes down wages and safety standards. That’s the price paid for our fantastic bargains.

Are we just as guilty as Joe Fresh for these deaths? Most of us are aware that the cheaper the clothing, the more likely it is to have been made under unethical conditions, yet the majority continue to prefer the Made in China, India, or Bangladesh shirt to the Made in Canada, USA, or fair trade shirt. In an industry of supply and demand, was Joe Fresh forced to cut corners, keeping prices low to please us?

Most certainly not, says Canadian Apparel Federation executive director Bob Kirke. “It is possible to make and sell an $8 T-shirt in a safe factory” he told the Star.“A safe and an unsafe factory in Bangladesh is not matter of a huge amount of extra costs. It’s the desire to do it,” he continued.

A Bangladeshi woman weeps as she holds a picture of her and her missing husband as she waits at the site of a building that collapsed Wednesday in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, April 26, 2013. The death toll reached hundreds of people as rescuers continued to search for injured and missing, after a huge section of an eight-story building that housed several garment factories splintered into a pile of concreteSource:

Though Joe Fresh has released statements promising to look into the incident, customers are horrified by the entire ordeal and many have warned they would boycott the Toronto fashion label until there was proof of change. Show us the receipts, Joe. It’s going to take more that a few carefully crafted press releases to prove that you accept responsibility for the loss of those 238 lives, as well as the poor wages you paid them.

It has been reported that the workers were forced to keep producing clothes even after police ordered an evacuation due to deep, visible cracks in the walls.

“Why is Loblaws not part of the Fire and Building Safety program like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger?” demanded Lindsay White, referring to a program that helps fund safety repairs at factories and bans production at sites that don’t make such repairs. “Until Loblaws gets on board with that, I will stop putting any more money into your brands.”

Let’s hope that all manufacturers learn from this and make strong efforts to improve wages and working conditions for their employees.

What do you think about this situation?



About the Author

Grace is the Editor in Chief of 613style and one of Ottawa's Top 100 Rising Star Entrepreneurs. She is available for hire, has written work featured on ET Canada, is a new YouTuber , and loves keeping up with Canadian Celebrities. She enjoys making occasional television and radio appearances, hosting events, and keynote speaking upon request. When she's not writing, she can be found on instagram, twitter , google+ or facebook

7 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Jen April 27, 2013 at 1:45 AM - Reply

    Great article! I think this tragedy should serve as a real eye opener to be more aware of where your clothes come from. Even high end retailers like BCBG have most of their clothing produced in China and India, so this isn’t something that is confined to fast fashion in my opinion. This is why it’s really important to just be aware of where your stuff is coming from. And should apply to things other than clothes.

  2. Grace April 27, 2013 at 10:47 AM - Reply

    Oh wow, Jen…I didn’t know that about BCBG & other higher end retailers! Definitely something to think about. But does clothing made in a “3rd world” country automatically mean it was made unethically? I wonder if it’s a higher price, though sill made in China, to subsidize the cost of paying their workers fair wages & providing them with ethical working conditions. But I’m going to have to research that because I’m not too sure! Thanks :)

  3. Jen April 27, 2013 at 12:19 PM - Reply

    It’s definitely something to look into! I just know that a lot of the time when I’m trying to justify something expensive that I’ve bought I try to use the ol’ “but it’s probably made in Canada or the US!” only to look at the tag and see that the $300 blazer I just bought was actually made in China. Maybe the factories for the higher end stuff are better, but it’s hard to know right!

  4. Jasmin April 27, 2013 at 2:08 PM - Reply

    I was wrestling with whether or not to post about this. It makes me physically ill that this is the cost of fast fashion. For those of us who don’t make tons of money, having access to trendy pieces at places like Forever 21 makes it easy to keep up with fashion, but if this is the cost I would rather save my money and invest in pieces that might cost more but that are at least made ethically.

  5. Jen April 27, 2013 at 5:57 PM - Reply

    Completely agree Jasmin! I think in the long run, the cost of fast fashion turns out being more than buying ethical, good quality, yet more expensive stuff. Being trendy isn’t worth the lives that were lost in that collapse, or the working conditions that some of these people go through. Definitely a real eye opener for me.

  6. Miles May 2, 2013 at 9:35 PM - Reply

    Yes! People should be more aware of where their clothes come from. Joe Fresh isn’t the only unethical Canadian clothes company: /

    • Grace May 5, 2013 at 10:09 PM - Reply

      Agreed. Thanks so much for this list!! :)

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