Can Another T-shirt Stop Fast Fashion?


A sustainable fashion reporter looks for new ways to keep readers abreast of fast fashion issues like the recent Bangladesh garment factory disasters. 

The media moves stunningly fast these days, and the consequence is that stories like the recent Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh and the impact of breakneck production of fast fashion, are often relegated as old news within hours. As a busy reporter and editor at the heart of the eco news scene, Amy DuFault is all too familiar with the pace of today’s media machine and the cost of not paying full attention. “It will happen again and again,” she said. “Until we start realizing that consuming at the pace we are currently cannot support human rights or the environment.”

DuFault decided to take matters into her own hands by creating and promoting a run of limited-edition t-shirts emblazoned with the names of the four garment factories at the center of the garment factory crisis: Spectrum, Ali, Tazreen and Rana. According to DuFault, “Each of the four garment factories listed on the t-shirt have contributed to roughly 1,618 deaths, an equal amount of injuries and serial maiming that goes beyond human recognition.”

Beyond drawing attention to the crisis, the t-shirts were made to show that, as DuFault says, “fashion can be done right.” Inspired by Experimental Jetset’s “John & Paul & Ringo & George” design, the t-shirts use non-toxic water-based inks and are made from an entirely traceable supply chain by TS Designs in Burlington, North Carolina. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Clean Clothes Campaign to support their continued coverage and monitoring of working conditions in the global garment industry.

We caught up with Amy DuFault as she got set to launch the initiative, here’s what she had to say:

Rowena Ritchie: Why is it so vital we keep the Bangladesh disasters fresh in people’s minds?

Amy DuFault: The New York Times wrote recently that Bangladesh was the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry, but the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh was just one of many garment factory disasters. There are deaths daily in garment factories from faulty old machinery maiming people, to blocked fire access routes during suffocating fires. In the case of Bangladesh, I feel like we hit an all new low when a factory could illegally retro-fit extra floors to accommodate bargain chains so that the managers could fulfill even bigger orders, faster. All this constant shopping to fulfill some aching need for meaning… our need to buy cannot ever come at the expense of another human being no matter how deep our addiction.

RR: Why did you feel personally motivated to launch this initiative?

AD: My original thought with all this was to just get money together from all my colleagues who were tweeting and Facebook posting their hearts out. Many of us felt we might need to start a support group from how depressed we all were hearing the daily death tolls, seeing those horrible images of young women sticking out of rubble and labels from fast fashion houses all over the place.

Speaking on a personal level, I went to a very dark place feeling powerless and that having been a part of the sustainable fashion industry for more than 8 years now–how could it have only gotten worse?

But through it all, I saw new leaders emerge and groups like the Clean Clothes Campaign, who are really taking action by reporting, protesting, and getting people to sign petitions that legally bind companies to fair labor rights. I wanted to support their efforts by helping to keep the story fresh in people’s minds.

RR: What’s the significance of making a t-shirt – don’t people have plenty of them already?

AD: It’s true, we do have tons of t-shirts in our drawers… I recently met Eric Henry from TS Designs when I was in Manhattan and I was wooed by his story of “dirt to shirt” manufacturing in Burlington, North Carolina. His story seemed to me a perfect fit with what I wanted to do–create awareness of basic human rights in garment factories, but show how fashion can be done right on a human as well as environmental level from “dirt to shirt.” Every t-shirt we made has a number on it that you can track and see who made your shirt. Everything is made and produced within 100 miles of Eric’s facility and there is little he doesn’t know about his business.

That there could be some slight possibility that a shirt made sustainably from beginning to end in this country could help remember the plight of garment workers thousands of miles away–and potentially start a conversation that starts a bigger dialog–is such a powerful thing.

Top Image:  Dan Cutrona


Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.