Fashion Revolution Week - my thoughts about fashion industry in Poland

It's that time of the year when we ask "Who made my clothes?". Fashion Revolution, a movement fighting for bigger transparency in fashion unites us to create a safer, cleaner and more rewarding industry. Since I'm a student of a fashion related school I was able to see how this big industry works. I thought that Fashion Revolution Week is a perfect time to talk about Polish factories and companies. Not many people actually think how their clothes were made. They don't want to know who stands behind them. And because of that Poland may soon become the second Bangladesh.

DISCLAIMER - everything you'll read is based on my own experience and thoughts. Just because I consider some events and actions as good or bad doesn't mean that others will see it like that. Also, few examples can't represent the whole industry. Every company has different politics and methods.

I was lucky enough to visit two clothing factories and have work practices at an atelier of one of the polish fashion designers. For obvious reasons I won't give you any names, but I can tell you what I saw.

Let's start with the small factory making clothes for big, internationally known companies. To be honest, from the outside I couldn't even tell that someone makes something there, it looked more like a warehouse. Factory wasn't big, there were around 20-30 employees. We visited them during spring, it wasn't a warm day, but the temperature inside was really high, it was fuggily and difficult to breath. There was no AC, only some seamstresses had fans, few lucky ones were working near open window. Rooms was crowded, we couldn't fit and had to split into smaller groups. In this place, for the first time someone told me to change my school. Not because I wouldn't find a job, but because of conditions.

The second factory we visited was a lot bigger. I'm pretty sure it's one of the biggest factories in Poland. Again, many well-known companies produces their clothes there. There were many different departments, each with various problems - heat, noice, old and dangerous machines. It was autumn and despite there was no AC, windows were shut. Because of that (and my health condition) I almost fainted at ironing and packaging department, even though we've been there for around 15 minutes. For the second time I've heard that I should change my school.

I also had a chance to "work" for a fashion designer. For a month I was usually patternmaker's assistant, sometimes I had to hand-sew some things or organize an atelier. I was really scared. I had no idea if I was good enough for this place, or will the team accept me for this short ammount of time. But everything was good and I've spent those four weeks working with people that really wanted to teach me something and seemed really happy with their job. I think this was a good example of a safe and healthy workplace. But since I was there only for a month and I was only helping I don't really know anything about salaries, health care, etc.

Overall, even though there are companies that cares about their employees, bigger factories still have a lot of problems with it. There are many books and articles showing how bad the situation in Poland is. Many seamstresses work for the lowest salary and their workplace might be a risk for their health and lives. In the time like this, five years after Rana Plaza tragedy, we should stop for a moment and think what can we do to make fashion industry safer. Let's ask big fashion companies who made our clothes. Let's ask how the workers are treated and in what conditions they're working. Let's ask how important their employees are for them. Let's do everything we can, so Rana Plaza tragedy won't happen ever again.

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