Lost Stock has been heralded as the saviour of the effects of Covid-19 on the fashion industry. But, does it signal towards some of the bigger, overlooked issues behind highstreet brands?
Lost Stock is an innovative initiative that seeks to alleviate the damaging effects of COVID-19 on the fashion industry. Customers pay £35 for a collection of garments that would otherwise go to landfill after answering questions on their style, tastes etc. A box is then filled and shipped from Bangladesh to the UK within 6-8 weeks and part of the proceeds (37% or £13 per box) go to their partners, the Sajida Foundation to support garment workers and their families. It seems like a fool-proof idea.
However, whilst Lost Stock and its ethos are noteworthy, the whole premise of their scheme is a consequence of fast fashion’s unethical agenda to prioritise profits over people. One box supports a worker and their family for a whole week - yet this is a short-term solution to a long-term injustice.
The problem that causes initiatives like this to arise lies with the brands and companies that have since withheld payments, cancelled contracts and pulled out from working relationships since the Corona-lockdown. The $2 billion worth of clothes have already been made yet without payment and future security from their employees. Given that 35% of factories do not have written contracts with their employees, the vulnerability to losses are all the more paramount – and without a safety net to fall back onto. These are the places we shop from: Primark, Marks and Spencers, Urban Outfitters, to name but a few. While the high-street shops are grappling with their losses, their factories and workers, largely in Asia, are left to deal with the consequences.
Without any schemes like furlough and social support available in Bangladesh, it has resulted in half of their workers losing their jobs out of the 4 million previously employed. Given that 80% of Bangladesh’s exports are garments, this has had a knock-on effect on the economy and the livelihoods of millions. In a country where social distancing is a luxury and furlough is a privilege, workers are left all the more vulnerable in a fragile and struggling economy.
Lost Stock is a great response in order to save clothes destined for the incinerator and to provide for workers in a global time of need. However, it is important that we address, and perhaps challenge ourselves as to whether these initiatives should be essential in the first place. Will the clothes that are boxed up one day (potentially someday soon) be boxed up outside charity shops? Does this really change the game of fashion and to demand better for those who make our clothes, or does it allow for the perpetuation of injustice for those behind the scenes?
Hold brands accountable
What you can do:
Many are recognising the calls for change and are adding new lines that seem to promote sustainability and a higher standard for their workers. Whilst this a positive step forwards, this should not be the exception – brands have a responsibility to ensure that they are protecting both people and the planet. Tag high street stores on social media to publicly hold them accountable! As customers, we can and should demand better.
Use this template to call brands accountable for the people behind the products.
Fashion is a fabulous tool at our disposal and clothes are an expression of who we are. So, invest into clothes that you will wear at least 30 times as a lasting piece of joy.
Clothes may be pricier, but you’re guaranteeing a quality product that seeks to be good to the people and planet.
Shake it up & go second hand!
People are calling Depop the new high street as we buy and sell online from the comfort of the sofa. Buying second-hand reduces the need for consumption and the exploitation of fast fashion.
Start having conversations about fashion and its impact; you never know the influence you could have.