Armani has become the latest high profile designer clothing company to stop the sourcing of their sandblasted jeans from suppliers who have been criticised for toxic practices which put their workers in mortal danger.
Sandblasted jeans have been popular with the fashion industry for years now, due to the demand for distressed and faded jeans, however the way in which this look is achieved has been largely ignored by the consumer.
Sandblasting is a practice which is common in Middle Eastern countries, where health and safety is not adhered to in many of the garment factories which supply denim jeans to the clothing industry. The jeans are blasted with pressurised silica which, when inhaled can cause silicosis, a serious respiratory disease which is often fatal. Risks of inhaling silica dust could be prevented by basic health and safety precautions which are simply not taken by the owners of the factories.
Turkey banned the practice of sandblasting jeans in 2009 however just last month saw the death of a worker in south-western Turkey from silicosis. Other countries have failed to ban the practice and so activists have turned their attentions to the designer clothing companies who source their sandblasted jeans from these dangerous factories.
Target, H&M, Levi’s and recently Armani have all vowed to cease trading with suppliers who continue the practice. Instead these companies are looking at other ways in which to achieve the popular worn effect such as using hand tools that distress the denim and which poses no health threat to the worker.
Versace have also pledged to stop the sourcing of their sandblasted jeans too but only after a very heated debate on their Facebook page between activists which culminated in the deletion of many Facebook posts.
This compliance by many top designer clothing companies demonstrates not just the impact that consumer power can have, but also how sensitive they are to the environmental and fair-trade movement which is gaining popularity with the public. People are more conscious than ever as to where their clothes come from and how they are made. There is a sense that we don’t just want to look good, but we also want to feel good by buying clothes that are made by fair-trade workers in factories which provide safe working environments.
After all, we may be paying top price for top quality, but we don’t want the workers who made the clothes to pay an even higher price so that we can look good. Quality and fair-trade can go hand in hand and this is often what the consumer wants.