21 April, 2020

My Hope for the “New Normal”: A Fashion Industry Built on Care and Partnership

by Helen Reimer, Fairtrade Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting us all in ways we never imagined. Yet when I consider my “isolation”, in a house with my own back yard, plenty of food in the fridge and the ability to work from home, I know I am incredibly fortunate. 

That’s not the case for many workers in the textile industry. For them, the pandemic is a devastating setback. They were already struggling, even before the pandemic hit. Now, Bangladesh reports that fashion retailers have cancelled US$3 billion of orders. Multinational brands stopped payment for orders they had already placed, while garment workers were left unpaid for work they had already done. Fortunately, the Indian cotton harvest was completed in February but because processing facilities, ports and transportation are disrupted and market demand has dropped, there is understandable anxiety about collapsing sales. The country was shut down from midnight on March 24th, leaving the country’s poor in a desperate situation. With many factories closed, workers who rely on daily wages are unemployed. No income leads to no food. Thousands of migrant workers, the backbone of the textile sector, are attempting to return to their home towns and villages on foot. When I see the photos or read the news, sometimes I am at a loss of what to do.

Over the last couple of years, I have had the privilege of working with many Canadian fashion and textile brands who are interested in sourcing Fairtrade cotton. I see first-hand how they take their sourcing decisions seriously, not only with visits to their factories but also by ensuring that their raw materials are produced sustainably. This brings me hope. Hope now during the pandemic, and also hope for the new normal when it comes. Tentree are one of these brands who have taken the lead in Canada with their Fairtrade organic cotton collection. 

I have always advocated against fast fashion. So what can we do as garment factories and cotton farmers need our help now more than ever? If we choose to support responsible Canadian brands, we impact positively the people who work throughout all levels of the supply chain. Maybe we could even gift a key worker at this time with a gift card or Fairtrade cotton tee to say thanks for all their hard work to keep us safe. There are many great brands out there. Here are some of my favourites, probably because I have worked directly with them and seen the care that goes into their sourcing.

  • Tentree – Check out their Fairtrade certified, organic and cradle-to-cradle certified collection.

  • The Good Tee – All their catalogue is Fairtrade certified cotton, with fashion basics that won’t go out of style.

  • Green Campus Coop – An old friend here at Fairtrade Canada, and perfect for printing your own message or designs.

  • Takasa – Luxury Fairtrade certified and GOTS organic cotton towels and bedsheets.

  • Etik & Co – A one-stop shop for several Fairtrade brands, including socks, shoes, shirts, hoodies and bags.