We all love a good bargain. That new top you got for a steal may not have cost you much, but someone paid the price. We used to go shopping a couple of times a year to treat ourselves to a new top or a new pair of jeans when our old favourites were threadbare. Now, the reality is – clothes are cheaper, trends are shorter, and shopping is a national pastime.

Fast fashion is the new normal. With a host of global chains selling cheap threads, you can dress in the latest and greatest and keep up with the catwalk. On 24th April 2013, The Rana Plaza tragedy disrupted the trend of replaceable wear. 1,138 workers died when a clothing manufacturing complex in Bangladesh collapsed, and this devastation put the real cost of dirt-cheap clothes in the spotlight.


The Human Cost

British fashion designer, social entrepreneur and fashion campaigner, Carry Somers, famously said ‘we may not hear the voices of the women who make our clothes, but every garment we wear has a silent ‘me too’ woven into its seams.’ That’s a powerful thought every time you pull on a shirt.

Being on trend has a ripple effect that extends to someone’s life and that someone is most likely a woman. From 2000 the number of garments produced annually has doubled; exceeding 100 billion for the first time in 2014. Now, consider that in Australia, 92% of clothes sold are imported, with only 4% of what we spend on clothing, going into the pockets of the garment workers.

Ethical Fashion Fosters Women

The facts and figures speak for themselves; of the whopping 75 million people who work in the fashion and textiles industry, 80% are women. That’s an astounding number of women who are exploited and controlled by verbal and physical abuse, working under abhorrent conditions, for terrible pay.

Think about this – that t-shirt sporting a proud feminist slogan, has done nothing to empower the women who made it.

The industry is rife with inequality; from decision-makers to the factory floor. By raising awareness of the cost of fast-fashion, we can all contribute to ensuring the people who make our clothes are given the dignity they deserve, in a safe work environment, with fair pay.

The Garment Worker Diaries set out to document the details of the lives of 540 people working in the fashion industry in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh. And the results are appalling: 60% experienced gender-based discrimination, over 15% experienced threats and 5% experienced physical abuse. Unbelievably, 40% witnessed a fire at their workplace.

Women are putting their lives on the line for the sake of our on-point pants.


Fashion Transparency Index

This vital index ranks 150 major global brands and retailers according to variables such as social and environmental policies, operations and influences. It also highlights how each brand handles gender-based discrimination and violence across its supply chain. It seeks to keep brands accountable in terms of human rights; which brands signed up to the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles, and which brands are transparent about gender-based labour violations, sexual harassment and treatment of pregnant workers. Check out the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index.

The Fashion Revolution

The younger generation is passionate about ethically produced clothes; driving a gender-balanced industry where policies are applied and upheld at all points of production. This revolution goes deeper than fashion’s visible elements; it seeks to promote change where we can’t see it, by advocating for transparency.

During Fashion Revolution Week, ask #WhoMadeMyClothes, so we can unify in valuing our environment, people, artistry and all profit equally. Empower women, and use your platform to connect with brands and retailers online; the more voices, the more brands will listen.

Dharma Bums Is Doing It

From day one, our vision was for each unique garment to empower both those who wear them and those that make them – and that means focusing as much on the people as the garments themselves. From origination to creation, Dharma Bums has an unwavering commitment to ethical supply chains and quality in every stitch.

We have built relationships with small Australian factories that believe in what we do, people who are committed to quality and, importantly, are ethically certified. As we have grown, we have brought in new partners that share our values, all certified by internationally independent bodies who audit their operations and are all BSCI accredited.

The BSCI code of conduct has 11 principles aimed at creating a fair and safe work place for the garment making industry. Transparency is important to us, and we think you should know and understand where your clothes are made.

The Dharma Bums brand is inspired by the world around us and we intend to take care of it. We are working to reduce our footprint with our business activity, from the energy used to run our offices to the dying and packaging of our garments.

We continue to work hard searching for fabrics that can tick both the ethical and sustainable boxes. Working with recycled nylon, organic cottons and biodegradable lenzing modal. We are committed to increase our mix of sustainable and recycled fabrics. Currently 75% of our collection is recycled or sustainably produced, with a goal to be 100% sustainable and recycled by 2022.

This year, on the 8th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, create real change; transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. When you’re next sifting through a rack of tops in your favourite shop, stop and think before you buy. ‘Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?’ If it’s a ‘yes,’ buy it, if not, leave it on the rack.

Kiera Harrison