Workers in the Bangladesh apparel industry are trying to raise awareness in Washington of the nation’s working conditions.
Sumi Abedin, a Bangladeshi garment worker who survived the Tazreen Fashions factory fire in November, and Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, met on Wednesday with George Miller (D., Calif.) and were trying to meet with Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) or members of his team.
At the same time, protests against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Gap Inc. were being planned for today at a Gap unit in the Friendship Heights Metro Station in Washington, D.C. Organizers said Gap was being targeted because it refused in 2012 to participate in a fire safety program for the Bangladeshi garment industry, preferring to go it alone. RELATED STORY: Rising Costs, Riots Squeez Bangladesh >>
Miller issued a statement: “[Sumi Abedin’s] stories provide real insight into the outrageous working conditions that she and her fellow workers had to endure. There have been at least 40 fires in Bangladeshi garment factories since this tragedy. I am increasingly concerned that the response by most U.S. brands that subcontract there has been woefully inadequate. When the cost to fix these fire hazards is estimated to be 10 cents per garment, Gap and Wal-Mart need to be committing resources and entering into enforceable agreements.”
Wal-Mart is being asked to participate in an April 15 conference in Geneva about how brands can compensate victims of fires and victims’ families, organized by global union IndustriAll. Disney, Sears Holding Corp., Delta Apparel Inc., Sean John and Dickies are among the U.S. companies that have also been invited.
Abedin and Akter on Friday will go to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to “memorialize the workers” whose lives were lost in the Tazreen fire. The women are scheduled to speak Friday afternoon at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.
The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which would facilitate in-factory safety procedures, continues to go unsigned by H&M, Wal-Mart and Gap. H&M, which sources more apparel from Bangladesh than any other retailer, said, “Primarily, it is the local government that has the responsibility to monitor the electrical installations in the factories.”
An H&M spokeswoman in Stockholm explained, “To be accepted as an H&M supplier, a factory must have emergency exits, a fire alarm installed on a separate power line and connected to its own generator, emergency lights, fire extinguishers, evacuation plans and minutes of fire evacuation drills.”
H&M introduced an education program to raise fire awareness and contacted other brands that manufacture in Bangladesh, including Abercrombie & Fitch, C&A, Carrefour, Carter’s, Gap, J.C. Penney Co. Inc., PVH Corp., Target Corp., Tchibo, Terranova, Tesco, VF Corp. and Wal-Mart. “Approximately three million workers will receive the education by 2013,” the spokeswoman said. “Collaborating with industry peers can help to increase the influence we have, whereas working alone, we’d have less influence.”
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
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“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia