High-street sweatshops – The campaign

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SWEATSHOPS still being used in British high-street fashion is being campaigned across the UK to help combat the modern day slavery issue.

We are currently existing in an age where disposable fashion is the norm. Today’s high-street offers the public the largest amount of choice when it comes to fashion that we have ever had.

The mainstream fashion industry supplied to us on our high-street is one of the biggest markets in world, and it is not news to anyone that the clothes in our favourite brand stores have been made by exploited labourers working long hours in dismal and depressing conditions. It is easily the biggest elephant in the room, we all know it but no one will notice it.

Thousands of charities across the world have arose to try and combat the abuse of workers in sweatshops unfortunately none have been successful in their attempts. One British Charity War Not Want created the campaign Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops in 2009 and is still ongoing today.

The campaign aims to create and protect rights to workers supplying to the British high-street and believes that this change will only happen through a legally binding regulation.  

The campaign is demanding that the government regulate the business practices of UK retailers to ensure that overseas workers are guaranteed a living wage, decent safe working conditions and the right to join a trade union.

This is the only step that would combat the exploitation of workers and completely change the British high-street forever.

Isobel Warner, 21, originally from Manchester, is a freelance campaigner who is a dedicated supporter of “Love Fashion Hate sweatshops” she has demonstrated across the UK and Europe to help the cause.

She says “The problem is that we have created the demand for quick and cheap fashion, we want and we get, we have our cheap fashion but it has to come at a cost.”

sweatshops

Big name brands accused of using sweatshops

Isobel continues to say: “The problem is that because we want this quick disposable fashion we dismiss the unethical and horrific treatment that is inflicted on the people who supply us this demand.”

Over the past twenty years the darker side of British high-street fashion has come to light, multimillion pound companies and famous names have been exposed in supporting and using sweatshops to supply their chains, this list includes famous names; River Island, New Look, Mark’s and Spencer’s, Next, Boohoo, Primark, Missguided and Adidas.

With every passing year, another scandal emerges about a British chain and that scandal than passes without any effect on the brand Isobel Warner wants this to change she says: “We need a law of regulation, we standards for the people who supply to our high-street.”

Isobel continues: “We cannot just call out companies outright for their sweat shop use because boycotts lead to job losses and the people working in these factories need a job, they just need a well payed safe one.”

Isobel is referring to the event in 2009 involving high-street brand Primark where sweatshop workers sewed messages pleading for help into garments which were found in stores across the UK.

The scandal hit Primark hard and ended up in the closure of several factories and the loss of over 1000 jobs. The effect on the workers was horrific.

Isobel said: “I have met people who work in sweatshops, women, men, children and talking to them about their experiences is heart breaking.

They work so hard for so long and in the most disgusting conditions to get paid the pennies they earn working for these multimillion pound companies that just don’t care. They closed the factories and destroyed the lives of their workers”.

Isobel continues to describe the stories of the workers she has met through this campaign, what she describes doesn’t seem real but the evidence is out there already, it is not hard to discover for yourself what it is like working in these sweatshops.

Owen Espley, War on Want’s labour rights campaigner stated that “The fashion brands have it within their power to transform this industry: and with that power comes the responsibility to act: where abuse is found in their supply chain they must be held to account.” Unfortunately, that isn’t usually the case. 

“The British public continue to fund these companies that are basically using slave labour in creating the products they sell, even after a scandal which involves sweatshops they can usually brush it off and get back on their feet pretty quickly”.

Isobel firmly believes that change needs to happen and plans to continue her work as a campaigner for the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign. “The campaign was set up in 2009 and it is still going, the reason to why is because the problem hasn’t gone away, we need to stand up and help these people, we need to change the way fashion is created in our country”.

The Love Fashion Hate Sweatshop campaign is having a second coming and its campaigners are urging people to support their movement.

Isobel will be organising events across the country for the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshop campaigns later in 2017, the information about these events will be appearing on the War Not Want Facebook page.

Isobel is dedicating her life to the campaign and hopes that she and other can make a change to the sweatshop workers and a change the British high-street she says “Hopefully in a few years’ time we can look back and be horrified by the way it is now and see the change that we brought to society”.

To read more on the War on Want, visit their Facebook page for more details.

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