Japanese brand Uniqlo has so far declined to join 80 other retailers that have signed the Bangladesh Safety accord following this horrific garment factory collapse in April which killed 1,129 laborers. Instead they hope to capitalize on Bangladesh's growing middle class by reinvesting profits from their "made by locals, for locals" model, complete with independently monitored codes of conduct and working conditions. The company just opened the first Uniqlo store in Bangladesh on July 5 in Dhaka.
We were actually in India the day the building collapse happened, so of course the Indian and Bangladeshi news outlets were teeming with graphic coverage of the tragedy (most images were way too disturbing to be published in our American media). Seeing the bleak sources of our ravenous appetites for dirt-cheap, lightening-fast fashion definitely made me rethink what a "bargain" truly is. And it isn't just in retail clothing--cheap tea is also a hugely growing industry in the region with very similar labor issues as apparel.
Perhaps Uniqlo can take faster measures for its own manufacturing on an independent level--so far the safety accord has been rejected by Bangladesh for its lack of accountability anyway, so those 80 retailers are going to have to figure out a better way to woo both their consumers as well as the world's second largest high-street fashion exporter after China.