President of the CFDA, Diane von Furstenberg, sent out an email yesterday to the organization’s membership yesterday pleading that designers need to take responsibility for the working conditions in the factories they use. Recent factory tragedies in Cambodia, and an official death toll of 1, 127 lives lost in the Rana Plaza collapse, have re-iterated the importance of safety and auditing in the countries where the garment making process takes place.
“What happened in Bangladesh is a tragedy and a harsh reminder that it is our obligation as designers to make sure our factories are a safe place to work and that the workers are respected,” von Furstenberg said in the email. The email also contained a link to the designer’s Supplier Code of Conduct rules and Supplier Certification Document.
It isn’t easy to maintain awareness of what goes on in a factory across the world and because of illegal sub-contracting, designers don’t know where their goods are produced and under what conditions. Which is why von Furstenberg is advocating that designer’s take a more hands on role.
“I also encourage you to have your production team visit directly with your supplier partners to see firsthand the working conditions and treatment of workers,” von Furstenberg wrote. “There are third-party vendors who can audit and inspect for you. It is important to know who you work with and to ensure safety and fairness in the workplace.”
Let’s hope that more designers and retailers become advocates for the safety and well being of garment factory workers. Here’s looking at you Gap, Walmart and JC Penney…