Consider the shirt or dress you’re wearing right now. If you had a way of knowing how much the person who made it was paid, would you want to know? If you had that kind of info up front, would it affect the way you shop?
The fashion line ABLE believes that kind of information matters. So recently they launched a new initiative with the goal of bringing much needed transparency to the whole fashion industry. They’re calling the initiative ACCOUNTABLE. They describe it as “a social impact measurement platform designed to give customers a transparent look at our manufacturing partners. It focuses on equality, safety, and wages, with a particular emphasis on women in the workplace.”
The founder wrote a blog post announcing the new program and it’s really good. Here’s an excerpt:
If you have not seen the film True Cost on Netflix, DO, and learn the extraordinary abuses in the fashion world. Fashion is the largest industrial employer of women, but only 2% earn a living wage…. And what that means, and what I cannot shake, is that the people that make the things we enjoy and wear can’t even meet the basic needs of themselves or their children. That is unacceptable. It’s evil, actually.
So – and as far as I’ve seen we’ll be the first in the world to do this – we have decided to start publishing the lowest wages of our workers… not an average wage, or a general labor cost per product, but the lowest wage. Doing this, being fully transparent about it, is what will protect the workers at the lowest rungs of our supply chain ladder.
He’s not kidding. Right in the main menu of ABLE’s website, you’ll see a link to Why Publish Wages, where you can find the results of ABLE’s audit, and find out how to encourage other lines you love, to have the same audit done for their wares. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could see this info on the tag of the clothing you buy — like a nutrition label, but designed for helping you evaluate if the product was responsibly and ethically manufactured?
I first learned about ABLE when I went to Ethiopia. In the years since then, I’ve gotten to know the founder, Barrett Ward. He’s the real deal. He originally started ABLE to empower women, and he takes that mission very seriously. It’s not just words — he’s constantly evaluating his work to make sure he can demonstrate real improvements in the lives of the women who create ABLE products.
What are your thoughts on the idea of publishing wages just like ABLE does? If you could choose a clothing line to take an audit and publish the wages of the people (mostly women!) who make their products, which clothing line would you choose? If this kind of info was easy to see at the point of purchase, would you find that helpful? When you think about transparency and the fashion industry, what kind of information would you like to know most?
So many considerations go into any given clothing purchase — the design, how it fits, price, availability, function, materials. How would you feel if manufacturing was one of the first considerations? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. — Are ABLE products new to you? Here are six items that caught my eye in their current collection:
Maria Drawstring Tote. In 3 colors.
Gonzales Hoodie. So cute, right? I would wear this every day.
The Merly Jacket. Perfectly broken in and worn out.
Totem Earrings. I’m digging statement earrings lately.
Elia Tote. In 3 colors. Feels like a alternative to my market bag.
Basic Gold Cuff. Sometimes the simplest jewelry is the best.