Who made my clothes, John Lewis?

The free Fashion Revolution course I’ve been taking comes to an end this week. (Don’t worry, it is still be available for those wanting to join in for the rest of this month). It’s been an interesting and frustrating couple of weeks for me, which John Lewis have unknowingly contributed to.

Finding Human Stories

The second week focused on finding the human stories behind our clothing. It is so easy to forget that everything we wear has been handled by so many people. From the creation of the textile, to folding up the finished garment; our clothes are most certainly made by hand.

For week two, we chose a garment and tried to hone in on who had made the textiles and other components as well as who had made the finished garment. This is no easy task!

#whomademyclothes, John Lewis?

I chose a denim midi skirt, from one of John Lewis’ own brands. I’m actually wearing it right now and it’s one of my most versatile basics. As someone who doesn’t wear jeans, it’s my equivalent I suppose. The label reveals that it is 100% cotton and made in India.

Researching

The course included advice on searching for information on textile and garment production and, I must say, I approached the task with high hopes. To me, John Lewis is a retailer I can trust, a brand that values transparency and honesty.

My first port of call was to email John Lewis. It took them two days to email back initially, but they assured me they’d passed on my request for information about my “leather mini skirt” to another department. Huh?

A few days later I got another email, to say my email has been passed on further. I really thought John Lewis were going to come through on this, I was almost willing them to. So many fellow students were coming back to the course to say brands were unhelpful and elusive. No, I thought, not John Lewis, they’ll give me loads of info.

Drumroll please!

John Lewis. Not so helpful.

What? No! You made me wait, you passed my email on and you send me this?! I thought you were different John Lewis! I’m following up with a further email today. I want them to know how disappointed I am that they don’t want to, or can’t, reveal any further information. Information that I feel, as consumers, we have a right to know.

Was the cotton for my skirt genetically modified? Highly likely as up to 90% of all Indian cotton is. Was my cotton picked by slave labour, or children? How toxic was the dye used to dye my skirt this perfect shade of blue? What is the factory like that my skirt was sewn in?

John Lewis have really let me down, and sadly this doesn’t seem to be an exception when it comes to talking to retailers and brands. There’s something worse when it is a company that prides itself on its ethics though. Whose literature boasts of treating its employees as equals and has a whole section of its website dedicated to how John Lewis Source and Sell with Integrity.

I’m still hoping that maybe they can’t tell me anything because they don’t keep information on past styles. Or maybe whoever got my email just couldn’t be bothered, or was having an off day.

Why so elusive?

This activity has really driven home the point that so many brands just don’t want to tell us anything. They don’t see why they should for starters and, of course, some know that they do have something to hide.

What do we do about that as consumers? Annoy them! Seriously, email, tweet, facebook message, tag on Instagram, whatever you need to do to get an answer. If the answer isn’t good enough tell them that.

Fashion Revolution are onto something with the #whomademyclothes thing. Use it.

As far as John Lewis go, I will be spending some time this weekend emailing them again and failing that, next week I will be annoying the hell out of them on social media. Not because I enjoy doing that, but because I think it’s important for our clothes to be manufactured in ethical circumstances and I’d like to think that a retailer I think so highly of would agree with me.

I’ll also be putting together the research I ended up doing without John Lewis’ help and sharing that here very soon.

Toria

4 Comments

  1. Alison Cupples
    16th July 2017 / 9:54 pm

    Wow! It is incredibly disappointing that a retailer who is claiming to source with integrity cannot fulfil this request for you. It makes you wonder about other retailers who make this bold claim.

    • 16th July 2017 / 9:58 pm

      Sadly “greenwashing” is rife amongst brands. Plenty make promises that they don’t deliver on, or to divert us away from other practices.

      I’m not accusing John Lewis of that, and I would like to think that I get a more helpful response to my follow up email.

  2. 17th July 2017 / 9:09 am

    having worked in clothing retail, I can see how it could play out, customer service has to go though a chain to get to the buyer who only deals in buying and margins and doesn’t really get the customer service bit so they may have actually been unhelpful to their own colleagues, especially on an older garment. I wonder if this could be more effective if a lot of people asked the same question at the time of product launch? or at a shareholder meeting? I found the course very interesting especially for the discussions that ensued, I look forward to reading more of your posts

    • 19th July 2017 / 10:47 am

      Absolutely, I think that having having to go through that chain of employees doesn’t help get questions like this answered. Of course, once this post had been tweeted a few times, JL were very quick to give me another contact to email. I find this equally disappointing as their initial response; shame shouldn’t equal information!

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