Bangladeshi Garment Factory Collapses — The Price of Your Cute Clothing

by Katy on April 24, 2013 · 36 comments

Bangladeshi Factory Collapse

I am heartbroken to write another blog post about unsafe garment worker conditions in the country of Bangladesh. Because yes, there is news today of a garment factory collapse that has killed “at least 87” workers. This building had known structural cracks and “workers told Bangladeshi news outlets that supervisors had ordered them to attend work on Wednesday, even though cracks were discovered in the building on Tuesday.”

In a country rapidly becoming known for unsafe working conditions and lax government oversight, these news stories are becoming more and more frequent. Despite efforts to protect worker rights, there seems to be no improvement. (Just last year Bangladeshi workers rights activist, Aminul Islam was found violently murdered.)

From this morning’s NY Times:

“Bangladesh’s garment industry has grown rapidly during the last decade, particularly as rising wages in China have pushed many global clothing brands to look for lower costs elsewhere. Bangladesh has the lowest labor costs in the world, with minimum wage in the garment industry set at roughly $37 a month. Retailers and brands including Walmart, H&M, Sears, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and many others have outsourced the production of billions of dollars of clothes there.”

The NY Times reports that “brands manufactured at this specific factory include Benetton, The Children’s Place and Dress Barn,” and The Huffington Post added that “clothes with Disney, Wal-Mart and other western labels were found at that factory.”

This is the price of our low cost clothing. But this is also the cost of higher end clothing as well, as Benetton and The Children’s Place are hardly selling for a buck or two.

If you have ever needed a reason to stop buying new foreign-made clothing, this is your moment.

Buy used, buy made in America, but please, I beg of you, make a choice to stop being part of the cycle that keeps these death trap factories in business! Show the people of Bangladesh that you care about their citizens, and that you want no part of a manufacturing culture that cuts corners at the expense of human lives.

Click HERE to read my blog post about the 2012 Bangladeshi Tazreen factory fire that killed 112 workers.

Click HERE to read my blog post about the 2010 Bangladeshi factory fire that killed at least 25 workers.

Please share this article on your Facebook page, on Twitter and in your conversations. Until we as consumers take responsibility for our role in unsafe foreign worker conditions, there can be no change.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda in Indiana April 24, 2013 at 9:52 am

How awful…so tragic…my thoughts and prayers are with all the families of those that died so tragically.
With what you said about either buying used on made in USA….I have been watching labels for about three years now…so very, very hard to buy USA made things….I know you are a this may seem a little strange…but would it be possible on your blog to direct us, your readers to products that are made in the USA? Knowing is empowering. Thank you for at least considering it. I feel like it could be our way of protecting those that are so vulnerable…like the poor souls lost in that fire today.


Katy April 24, 2013 at 9:57 am

Good idea, I’ll start looking into that.

Here’s a company that practices responsible manufacturing practices in Bangladesh:



Linda in Indiana April 24, 2013 at 10:42 am

Thank you sooo much!


Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares April 24, 2013 at 11:05 am

Try this:

She has a directory of goods made in USA. Also, if you know of something not on the list, you can request it be added.

Also, Etsy is a good resource for items made in USA, though you’ll have to ask about the fabric’s provenance.


Pamela April 24, 2013 at 10:10 am

I’d also advise people to write their lawmakers about holding companies that outsource the production of ALL goods (since it’s not just cute clothing) to countries with little to no safety standards, to contractors that quash unionization and dismiss worker safety. Perhaps if we enforced some strict tariffs to penalize companies that put the lives of other people in global south nations at risk, perhaps if we made things uncomfortable for them, this would stop.


Katy April 24, 2013 at 10:36 am

Good idea!



Sara April 24, 2013 at 11:01 am

Your last post about the fire in the Bangladeshi clothing factory was the thing that pushed me over the edge into The Compact. I’d been concerned from an environmental prospective and toying with the idea for awhile, but the in-your-face evidence of the horrible effects of manufacturing cheap clothing for me to buy was too much. I just keep coming back to the fact that we would NEVER EVER tolerate that in the United States, change the location of the factory from Bangladesh to California or Indiana or Georgia and the outcry would never end. The life of a Bangladeshi woman has to be just as important as an American man, if it isn’t then what’s the point of it all?


Katy April 24, 2013 at 11:02 am

The value of life is equal worldwide.



Rebecca April 25, 2013 at 5:58 am

Not all that surprising, this happens in the USA as well, esp on the west coast where there have been several fires in garment factories where numerous workers were killed due to doors being locked or blocked, etc. Often the workers are illegal, working for pennies a day in unsafe and cruel sweatshops, right here in the US.


Hannah April 24, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Thank you for blogging about this. I have always bought my clothes from standard mall/chain stores. This is not something that has been on my radar, but it will be from now on. Not only do I feel like it’s morally wrong to support these factories, but from a purely selfish standpoint, how can you expect quality, long lasting clothing that is free from harmful chemicals when it has been manufactured in these conditions? No one wins.


Madeline April 24, 2013 at 2:11 pm

An enlightening post. We just don’t THINK about where all our “STUFF” comes from and WHO is involved, real HUMAN BEINGS–in the manufacture and distribution of our nice cheap garments,food, etc.

Thanks for sharing,Katy.


Rebecca B. A. Ross April 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Looking for Fair Trade items is also another way you can make sure that the people making them are safe and earning a living wage (if the item isn’t made in the USA, or you don’t want to buy used). At, they have a lot of products in their store, that will tell whether an item is fair trade or not, and where it was made. A lot of times it will even give some background on who is making the product, too.


Erin April 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm

This is a great resource! These people are working in horrible conditions because they need and want the income. Such a great idea to truly support them at a reasonable wage!


Martha April 24, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Thanks for this topic Katy, hugely important connections for consumers to make. To follow up on Rebecca’s comment…here is a link to learn more about Fair Trade goods (there are tons of fair trade clothing and food options) Here is a link to a website to find Fair Trade Retailers (stores and online) I got to visit a number of Fair Trade producer groups in Nepal this winter and these were happy women (mostly) who are fairly compensated for their work, have safe working conditions, and are not being exploited. As a result of their long term stable employment (many who we talked with had been working at their same jobs for 15-25 years), have had enough money to feed, clothe and house their families as well as educate their children. Fair Trade makes a huge impact in people’s lives and is a great option if you are looking for new items.


AnnW April 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I have found many companies that still manufacture in the US. I just googled it. The latest that I have found is If we are careful and launder our clothes properly, clothes can last for years and years. If you have favorite items of clothing, email or write to the manufacturers with your concerns. I would not hesitate to buy shoes from Italy, sweaters from Scotland, and underwear from France or Switzerland. We don’t need ten or twenty shirts, and twenty to thirty teeshirts that are dirt cheap. We are encouraging these labor practices by purchasing cheap clothes. Katy, could you please elaborate on the book “Overdressed?” It is a indictment of our wasteful society. Then again, we could start sewing and make our own pajamas, robes, and other easy items.


Katy April 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Great post, Katy. I shared it on my FB page.

Sadly, we in the US are not immune to terrible workplace events due to negligence. West, Texas for example:


tna April 24, 2013 at 4:01 pm

After seeing this in the news I was thinking about it all day. What would make me go back to work in a factory where I had noticed and reported unsafe cracks to no avail? Desperation. Hunger. Need. How do you stop exploitation of the poor? All the clothes in all the thrift stores were purchased new at some point by someone. My buying used is not going to stop that. And there are poor people in the United States who need cheap clothing. I was riding a bus into the city yesterday and noticed new single family homes built up in the mountains that looked like castles. Later the bus stopped at a church and many families got off and someone asked where they were going and were told that on Tuesdays and Thursdays that church serves a free hot meal for lunch. And that another church serves a free hot meal for lunch on Mondays and Fridays. So right there in the United States are families that can’t afford food let alone clothing. And schools across the nation have to provide free breakfasts and lunches so that children are nourished enough to learn. Then in the summer there are now breakfast and lunch programs set up so children will have food when public school is not in session. I’m quite willing to buy used clothing, or even make my own and wear it until it falls off my back. But I don’t for a minute think my actions will solve these problems that exist in a country so far away when I can’t even solve the needs of other right in front of my face.


Elaine in Ark April 25, 2013 at 7:15 am

tna, all you can do is what you CAN do. For example, recycling to keep stuff out of landfills is a good thing, and one person’s efforts will not save the planet. But it is one thing you can do, and something you can encourage others to do.

It all starts with one person doing one thing.


AnnW April 25, 2013 at 8:17 am

As far as one person: Our small town in the Northeast is made up of law abiding, church going citizens. I know, boring Yankees. However, we have been recycling for over twenty years. We don’t use the “dump” anymore, it is all transferred to a regional place. But, we are so good at recycling that we get the highest price paid for our recyclables. We also collect books at the dump and anyone can take them home. There is also a pile for “good stuff” that people can pick from. Some New England towns’ dumps are a social gathering place. People running for office hang out there to politick. Ann


Katy April 25, 2013 at 8:57 am

That’s fantastic!



Elaine in Ark April 26, 2013 at 6:54 am

I take all my recycling to the next town, where the local AARP chapter runs a top-notch recycling center. They get so much money from the stuff that they donate more than $100,000 per year to local causes.

It all started with a couple of people with an idea.


Hannah April 24, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I just finished reading Elizabeth Cline’s “Overdressed” yesterday. She delves deep into the unsafe practices of outsourced garment production. From the sad human cost like the factory fires and collapses to the environmental costs. Made me want to fire up my sewing machine again and stay the hell away from sweat shop produced crap. One factory had the safety posters in English, when the workers were barely literate in their own language. These factories are heartbreaking. I plan on exploring ways to purchase U.S. made products from now on, and that includes thrift shop purchases as many products there are pre-sweat shop made.


Rachel Gillespie April 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I didn’t know about this and feel like I should have. Thank you for sharing and making people aware of what they’re really buying into. I’ve posted a link to this post on The Footprints Project Facebook page. I hope that’s okay. If not, let me know and I’ll take it down. I think it’s really important to get the message out there.


JaneUlness April 25, 2013 at 10:06 am

I am at the point where I rarely buy clothes. When I go down a size Yeah! I try to organize a swap. So,done is out there that matches the size that I need to get rid of.

On another note, I just cleaned my studio ( I supplement my social security selling hand made cards. ) and put some tools I don’t use on Craig’s list!

Also, looking at the ingredients on nacho cheese sauce on the blog, I try to avoid anything I can’t pronounce. I dissected a hamburger meal box, it wasn’t quite as bad, but almost!!!

I really appreciate the ideas on this blog. it has motivated me to start
Thinking outside the box!!!


Michael April 25, 2013 at 4:27 am

this isn’t a result of consumerism, it’s a result of corporate greed.


dusty April 25, 2013 at 4:41 am

While loss of life is horrible in any situation, the bottom line here is money. We used to produce lots of items in the US, the unions (and I am a supporter of unions) got out of control (auto industry in a great example) and now we make nothing, why, because they will do it for less over in India, Vietnam, etc. I am a medical transcriptionist and have been for over 20 years. My business is bascially going overseas. Why, because they will work round the clock for 1/3 of what I make. I can’t compete and herein lies the problem, we can’t compete. So, as horrible as people dying in factories is, the bottom line is the average person in America will not buy or cannot afford to buy clothes made in America. Very sad!!


John April 25, 2013 at 6:04 am

Katy, thank you for posting the link about responsible manufacturing. To blindly say “don’t buy from country X” is both wrong, hurtful and uninformed. This is a tragedy, yes. Avoidable, yes. If you don’t buy from these countries think of the people you put out of work, the people that then go hungry and homeless. The answer is complicated. These people are working to makea better life and they know the risks but need the job so bad they’ll take them. I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t be more prudent but the answer is NOT simple. A world economy, with goods, services and money moving freely is the best way to raise standards of living, promote peace and make life better for everyone.


emmer April 25, 2013 at 8:03 am

yes, corporate compettion and greed. and we cannot add tariffs to goods produced in inhumane conditions as it would violate global trade laws.
what we can do, each in our small ways, is buy less, buy used, buy only from known highly principled sources, buy local. and learn to make and repair ourselves. in the usa, try seattle’s “decent exposures” well made mostly women’s undergarments and leisure wear. a little sticker shock–but exceedingly well made and wear ike iron. organic options, too. if you sew, check out “connecting threads” from vancouver, wash, with a warehouse in (i think) ohio. mainly intended as a quilting fabric and thread source, their cotton is grown in the usa and woven in mexico. as close to local as i have found. their cottons make fine garments. for knitters, there are a plethora of small shops that carry hand spun wool, alpaca, angora, etc. they are pricier than red heart acrylic (made from petroleum) that pills and stretches. i can just about promise that if you make it yourself of good quality materials, you will care for it and it will last decades.
if you live in portland (oregon) metro and want to learn or brush up on basic sewing but can’t afford a semester length course to do so, perhaps i can help. people no longer learn to sew in school and are often left without basic sewing/mending skills. i teach sewing to help people develop this practical skill.
i will offer 2 students a basic learn-to-sew course of 6 sessions for FREE. students must provide their own materials.
you can contact me for more info at


Pamela April 25, 2013 at 8:33 am

It isn’t just clothes. Our computers are made in EPZ’s by exploited workers. Our smart phones. Our electronics. Our small appliances. Sports equipment. Auto parts. Camera parts.

If we only focus on hand-making one thing that is typically made in an EPZ, the problem will continue to exist. There is nothing wrong with fighting unjust global trade laws.


Katy April 25, 2013 at 9:05 am

So true, thanks for the reminder.



Family Fandango April 25, 2013 at 8:09 am

Shared on my facebook page…thank you for posting, and for helping us spread the word.


Patti April 25, 2013 at 11:47 am

There are fabrics still made in the USA responsibly – my husband works for Milliken & Company which is the largest textile company in the world. You can find out more at www. My husband designs outdoor adventure wear and has made fabric for companies like Cabela’s, Nike, Patagonia, LL Bean, RL Gore, etc. but he currently is designing for the military. You CAN make a difference in people’s lives by buying American and demanding high quality.


cathy April 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I took a tour through my closet last night. My (mostly thrifted) wardrobe is way better traveled than I am. I found a surprising number of things made in the USA and even though I didn’t find anything made in Bangladesh, there are still a lot of other countries I wonder about.

For me, I think the solution is being more mindful of where my clothes (even secondhand) are manufactured; I’ll go for a blend of responsibly-made stuff from overseas combined with clothes made in the USA. Thanks everyone for the links.


Rachel Gillespie April 26, 2013 at 3:33 am

I’m back after reading more comments.
I agree that it’s not the country where the garments are made. I prefer to buy Australian because we have all but eradicated sweatshops. This means we have also all but eradicated Australian made garments. Again, I don’t mind buying clothes made overseas but I want to know that the brand I’m buying has an ethical sourcing policy and that they tour the factories and are making sure there are no human rights violations occurring. Clearly, that wasn’t the case for any of the brands using that factory in Bangladesh. It’s just easier to buy secondhand than have to research every brand I want to buy so I mostly do so.
I further agree that it isn’t just clothes. It’s just about everything one has to buy these days. I do a lot of research before buying things and, sadly, in some cases, it comes down to the least of all evils rather than being able to find a product secondhand or ethically made.
Whilst many companies have been forced to go off-shore for labour in order to survive, there are many multi-national corporations that have not only gone off-shore but have actively participated in human rights violations in the name of profit. The latter isn’t economics; it’s greed.


me May 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I sew and re-purpose a lot of clothing…but even buying fabric & sewing yourself isn’t a solution. The fabric is made overseas in horrid working conditions too. Sorry to be a downer…


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