Last November, a factory fire at Tarzeen Fashions Ltd. in Bangladesh broke out and took the lives of more than 100 people. The culprit? The designer himself. Sujeet Sennik, a designer for the Canadian fashion company, has taken responsibility for the deaths of those involved in the tragic fire. "I designed that cheap garment," Sennik said. "I lit that factory fire in Bangladesh."

Sennik sights the demand for cheap goods as the cause for the poor working conditions and subsequent fire. "I design inexpensive clothes destined to be manufactured by the most competitive manufacturers, in what we call “offshore” factories." The designer said.

"In Bangladesh, stories circulate that the Tazreen fire was arson. My point is, this fire was lit by me." Sennik said.

The designer believes because his expectations for the clothes was so low that he welcomed this sort of disaster. "I am the one who asked our factories to make a $9 blouse, and, by default, Bangladesh is one of two countries in which clothing can be imported duty free."

Still, Sennik sees the problem lies within the large corporate demand for cheap goods, faster. "My employers are happy that we will have this item on the floor en masse for next season’s sales." Sennik said.

But the consumer is part of the problem as well. "Our customers have forced us to hack down the prices to be competitive in this market of cheap clothing and off-price bargaining that we call the Canadian clothing sector." Sennik said.

There tends to be a disconnect with the consumer of fast-fashion, and a belief that no real person is making these clothes. "Popular thinking is that clothing at this level, since it is mass produced, is automated." Sennik said. The designer dispelled that myth. "The truth is that most of the procedures used to make these garments that fuelled the Tazreen fire passed through the now deceased workers’ hands. Perhaps one of the perished women was sewing the back neck of a garment to its collar."

It's an inevitable cost war that drives these conditions, unfortunately. "I wonder whether she was holding on to the collar that I had asked her to sew to meet my cost target when she died. I know that our shipments are sometimes rushed at the last minute to make the vessel. Maybe that’s why the managers asked some of the workers to stay seated when the fire started." Sennik said.

All of these conditions are what has made Sennik take sole responsibility for the death of these factory workers. "The point is clear. I confess to the murder. The reason is clear. The collar that the Bangladeshi woman was holding as the smoke pushed through her lungs was destined for a killer-priced shirt next season."

It's sad. When we talk about why it matters that something is Made in USA, it's not an ever-so-present xenophobia that many claim. But knowing that the clothes or items aren't made in conditions such as this. Hopefully, this tragedy will open eyes to unfair practices in the garment industry. If not, at least some folks realize the larger situation.

[via The Globe and Mail]

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