Lessons learned from Lost Stock

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Mairi Hughes

IN THE past weeks and months, more and more people have been posting videos on social media of an unboxing of a ‘Lost Stock’ parcel. Lost Stock is a recently launched initiative started by Edinburgh-based entrepreneur Cally Russell. The initiative came about in response to several high street retailers cancelling masses of clothes orders from suppliers as their footfall suddenly became non-existent during lockdown.

The cancellation of these orders meant workers in garment factories—primarily in Bangladesh, the world’s third largest fashion exporter—were left unpaid for their work and billions of pounds worth of already shipped brand new clothes were headed for landfill. The initiative both prevents these clothes going to landfill by boxing them up to sell them to online consumers and replaces garment workers’ lost wages through funds raised.

Lost Stock is a commendable enterprise and I would encourage everyone who can afford the £35 cost to order a box of clothes. However, the initiative draws attention to a wider issue, which so many of us ordering the boxes will likely sweep under the rug after a fleeting moment of concern about where our clothes come from.

Lost Stock’s founder Cally Russell said he was inspired to start the initiative after hearing an interview with a Bangladeshi factory owner in which he said, if his workers did not die of coronavirus, they would die of starvation due to the lack of wages. The flippant refusal of high street retailers to pay their manufacturers for work already completed demonstrates the skewed priorities of the world of fast fashion. This is an industry which does not care for its workers and ensures its consumers are blind to this through flashy marketing which detracts attention from the garment production process.

Alongside initiatives such as Lost Stock popping up, the issue of retailers not paying their manufacturers during lockdown caused outrage and a subsequent uproar from conscious shoppers. This saw the birth of campaigns such as the Change.org #PayUp petition, demanding high street retailers pay their manufacturers for their work.

The list of retailers called out by the petition was long and shocking, including big brands such as Top Shop, Urban Outfitters, Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and Marks & Spencer.

The #PayUp petition eventually unlocked $22 billion for garment workers around the world and has now launched a website that continues to campaign for garment workers’ rights. The main aim of this is to demand that retailers are more transparent about where their clothes are made and how much they pay their workers.

While in recent times there has been an increase in savvy shoppers who ask questions about where their clothes come from, this has taken far too long to come about. This is because the fast fashion industry has actively prevented us from asking these questions.

The fashion industry has a duty to pay their workers a fair wage and to be transparent with consumers about where their clothes are coming from. However as we as consumers become privy to the injustices of this system, we all have a duty to do what we can to demand change.

Here’s hoping we will all learn a lesson from this turbulent time in the fashion industry, and emerge as more mindful shoppers.

Mairi Hughes is a Journalist and Creative Writer

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