The events in Bangladesh, however, have somewhat overtaken my thoughts. I interviewed Nicola Cole, the Attune production manager, for this week’s inspirational women interview and it was Nicola who has developed a strong relationship with our UK manufacturer, Montreux when the Attune collection was in its infancy. When I spoke with Nicola, the collapse of the factory hadn’t happened. Even so, Nicola had been chatting to me about how previous roles had led her to Bangladesh to survey production facilities and make decisions about what factories met the ethical standards set by her employers. Nicola took this role very seriously, and advocating for those employees eventually led her on to retrain as a counsellor and advocate for students with mental health issues.
There are many things which have been going round in my head since witnessing the scenes of devastation in Dhaka – sadness at the needless and avoidable loss of life, dismay at the greed of the factory owners, and bewilderment at how planning permission for a five-storey building was ignored by all when an eight-storey building was constructed. But I suppose most of all is a sense of shame as I know that I too have been seduced by cheap clothing, assuming that it is my right to save a few pennies without sparing a thought for the ethics behind my purchases.
How we shop and the choices we make are not value-neutral actions – they have consequences, and this has been underlined this week. A large British retailer and a large Canadian retailer have both stated that they will pay compensation to the families of the victims of the factory collapse, and have called on other companies who had garments manufactured there to do the same. And there are glimmers of hope that the practices of the past will no longer be acceptable in Bangladesh going forward. Let’s work to make sure that safe working practices are the standard and give some thought to the choices we make.