Australia is famous for its sunshine and beaches, but it’s also home to a bustling clothing, and footwear industry. But just because something is “Australian-made” doesn’t mean the person who stitched it is getting a fair go. That’s the message behind “Meet Your Maker,” a new campaign by Ethical Clothing Australia to educate shoppers about the importance of fair wages and healthy work environments. “So many incredible things happening in clothing and footwear here in Australia,” Simon McRae, national manager for the joint business-union initiative, tells Ecouterre. “[Yet] most people look at you blankly when you tell them that we have 50,000 people working in Australia, generating over $3 billion a year. We need to support them and get the message out there.”
MADE IN AUSTRALIA
The term “sweatshop” is commonly associated with developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil, but many garment workers in Australia, particularly those based at home, are paid as little as $4 an hour without benefits or vacation time. Ethical Clothing Australia, which is funded by the Australian government, offers a voluntary accreditation and labeling system that works with local textile, clothing, and footwear businesses to uphold labor standards.
Meet Your Maker attempts to bridge any disconnect between consumers and the products they buy.
The organization is quickly growing, with nearly 60 accredited brands such as Lisa Ho, Nobody Jeans, The Social Studio, and Cue, all of which display swing tags or labels with the trademark “e” as a symbol of their commitment to workers’ rights.
Businesses can’t do it alone, however. By featuring online profiles of the workers behind the garments, Meet Your Maker attempts to bridge any disconnect between consumers and the products they buy while encouraging informed choices.
“Part of our brief at ECA is to accredit supply chains to make sure homeworkers are treated fairly getting legal wages but the other side of it is to promote the Australian textile clothing and footwear industry,” McRae says. “We want to promote Ethical Clothing Australia to ordinary consumers, get them to see the makers and people behind their clothes, and build a relationship and support for Australian-made clothing and footwear.”