Mary Creagh MP reaffirms battle for fashion transparency at Pure
Mary Creagh, MP and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, again voiced her concerns and what needs to be done to make the fashion business more transparent and sustainable, when she took to the stage at Pure London this week.
Creagh says she came to realise the true cost of fast fashion from a human perspective after the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in May 2013 when an eight-story commercial building and garment factory collapsed and over 1,100 people died. “That really woke me up to the true cost of cheap fashion,” commented Creagh, speaking to environmental expert and writer, Lucy Siegle.
Making brands and retailers accountable for their purchasing decisions and supply chains has been the real focus for Creagh and her team. “Our committee gives us the ability to call witnesses, where they actually have to broadcast in government and account for themselves. We have a conversation and it’s through that we can really get to the heart of the issue.”
Whistle blowers are also proving key in to the government’s investigations in to the true damaging cost of fast fashion. “One woman told me she had audited a factory in Leicester and seen that the fire escape was padlocked shut,” said Creagh. “In the event of a fire those women, perhaps girls, working in that factory, could have been subject to a Rana Plaza style tragedy.
“We even had Missguided give us evidence during our public sessions saying that some of their auditors in Leicester were physically man-handled, and this is by a factory owner who wanted to sell to Missguided! If they’re throttling the guys coming in to inspect the factory, then what are they doing to the workers?”
Creagh went on to say that, in the age of crypto currencies and blockchain, the industry can audit all the way down to the supply chain if it wants to. “I said to M&S that I know more about the lives of the pigs that make your sausages, but you can’t tell me about the lives of the women who make your clothes.”
This is really just the start of the journey for many of the big brands and retailers. Once again, as Creagh said during her talk at The Industry’s Fashion Futures Forum – in partnership with Avery Dennison – back in November 2018 at London’s White City House, “fashion has been marking its own homework for too long.”
She added: “The audit into fashion has been a real eye-opener for my colleagues, they can’t believe the carbon and chemical footprint and the stories they’ve heard. We’ve mainstreamed something that wasn’t mainstream. We’re relying on future technology that hasn’t been invented yet and the clock is ticking. We need to bend the curve of consumption. We’ve had the slow food movement and I’m trying to get together the slow fashion movement.”
Echoing Katherine Hamnett’s views on Sunday’s discussion at Pure, asking businesses to be more transparent and to engage consumer power, Creagh said: “What is your licence to operate to make fashion? We don’t ask enough questions about who makes our clothes. Sustainability managers need to be as important as the purchasing managers, and actually they should be the managing director!”