BANGLADESH, DHAKA – The capital city of Dhaka. Textile factory in Savar, in the suburbs of Dhaka … [+]
2018 Frédéric Soltan
Cancelled orders, hopeful invoices, the prospect of factories going out of business, employees made redundant, yes, one of the key elements of the western fast fashion trade, Bangladeshi textile factories, have been having a hard time of it of late. And there’s a very real human cost to all of this.
Countless families depend on the work these factories provide for their livelihood but when the coronavirus struck Europe and particularly the U.K. orders dried up just like the Teesta River which flows through the country.
It’s a precarious position for everyone in the supply chain and especially for those who have been portrayed as the bad guys in all of this; the retail brands, who have cancelled orders as sales have plummeted. In a sense who can blame them? But it’s having a devastating effect on their suppliers.
Because the commercial structure of the fashion supply chain places the majority of the risk burden on the garment manufacturers who are unable to invoice until the goods have been shipped.
It’s estimated that fashion retailers are currently sitting on some £15 billion of stock, and that there is £3.2 billion worth sat in textile factories throughout Bangladesh. As one factory boss said, “If coronavirus doesn’t kill my workers, starvation will”.
For £35 someone can purchase a box containing at least three items of clothing worth £70 and the proceeds from the box, through collaboration with the Sajida Foundation, go towards supporting a Bangladeshi textile worker and their family for a week.
Although what’s in the box is unknown, using data from Mallzee, customer preferences including size, style, colours and so on are known so as to personalize each box.
I spoke to Mallzee and Lost Stock Founder and chief executive officer, Cally Stevens about the success of the initiative.
“We’re essentially completing the part of the supply chain that’s been broken because of COVID-19”, he said.
He believes that although they could have setup a charity, it would be unlikely that anyone would donate £35 to a charity but “by combining with a purchase, we could generate more spend”.
In this way, people are able to “buy a present for their future selves, do some good for the workers in Bangladesh while at the same time do some good for the planet by preventing the garments from ending up in landfill”.
Stevens is reluctant to share which brands the garments would otherwise have been destined for, for obvious reasons, and all are without brand tags. But he is more forthcoming when discussing where the money goes, his organisation taking just a 9% margin in order to cover costs.
The clothes in each Lost Stock box come from factories where stock has been cancelled. The majority coming from Bangladesh and delivery is quoted as being in 6-8 weeks, although Stevens says that they are actively seeking to reduce this.
With more than 85,000 boxes already purchased in just the first few weeks, the scheme is clearly capturing the imagination. Giving back has always been something many people are willing and happy to do, and by purchasing a box, it provides much needed support during these difficult and challenging times.