“Brands shouldn’t be allowed to keep getting away with claiming to support the LGBTQ+ community while producing collections which rely on exploitation for production”
BY NADIA DAVIES
June is Pride Month, which means a month of celebration, visibility, and activism for many LGBTQIA+ people. It’s also a time for high street brands to bombard us with their rainbow-covered merchandise.
Every year, big brands see Pride month as an opportunity to make money under the guise of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. T-shirts, shoes, and accessories with rainbows emblazoned on them line the aisles of clothing stores and pop up as adverts on our social media feeds, with the qualifier that the company will donate a small percentage of their profits to an LGBTQIA+ charity. But there is little to no information available about who makes the clothes, what happens in the companies’ supply chains, or where in the world the clothes are made.
In 2018, a BBC Newsnight investigation found that Pride clothing produced by Primark, H&M and Levi’s was partly made in countries such as Myanmar and Bangladesh, where it is illegal to be gay, and India, where LGBTQIA+ people face significant challenges despite same-sex relationships being made legal in 2018. Other brands producing Pride merchandise, such as Nike and Adidas, would not disclose where their collections were made.
For the garment workers producing Pride merchandise, life can be very hard. 98% of garment workers are not paid a living wage. Gender-based violence is rampant within the industry, and forced labour can be found at every stage of garment production.
On top of that, LGBTQIA+ garment workers are some of the most marginalised within the industry. They are not protected from the discrimination they face due to their sexuality or gender identity, finding it difficult to get and keep their jobs, and facing harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.
For Izzy McLeod, this is simply not good enough. In 2019 they founded Who Made My Pride Merch, a campaign which aims to highlight the issues faced by LGBTQIA+ garment workers and demand greater transparency from brands creating Pride merchandise.
“I had seen a few news stories talking about the issues faced by garment workers in these countries, but there really wasn’t much information out there,” says Izzy. “I thought there needed to be more pressure on brands and more done to support LGBTQ+ garment workers.
“Brands shouldn’t be allowed to keep getting away with claiming to support the LGBTQ+ community while producing collections which rely on exploitation for production. It may sound like a cliche, but Pride should be about queer liberation for all, not rainbow capitalism. Corporations are not serving the LGBTQ+ community as they say they are – they’re serving themselves.”
Who Made My Pride Merch is inspired by Fashion Revolution Week, an annual week of remembrance for the 1,134 garment workers killed in 2013, when the Rana Plaza building collapsed in Bangladesh.
Who Makes My Pride Merch is a consumer activism campaign which calls for transparency from the clothing industry, asking them to share where their Pride merch is made, and by whom, in an effort to improve the conditions in which many LGBTQ+ garment workers are working. The campaign is also talking to organisations who work with garment workers, to see how LGBTQ+ workers within the industry can be better supported.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
Here are a few ideas of how you can get involved this Pride month.
🌈 Email/tweet/write to brands making Pride merchandise, asking them #WhoMadeMyPrideMerch.
🌈 Pose with one of the campaign’s posters and tag brand(s) asking #WhoMadeMyPrideMerch.
🌈 Wear Pride clothing you already own and ask the brand #WhoMadeMyPrideMerch and if they are protecting their LGBTQIA+ workers from discrimination.
🌈 Show off any merch you own from ethical and sustainable brands and celebrate brands who are doing good things this Pride month.
🌈 Make/upcycle your own Pride merch this year, show off your creative endeavours and encourage other people to get creative with clothing they already own.
🌈 Shop with small LGBTQIA+ owned, ethical and sustainable business this Pride season, and encourage your friends to do the same.
🌈 Donate money you would have spent on Pride merch to an LGBTQIA+ charity or fund.
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