As the death toll reaches 72 at a shoe factory fire in the Philippine capital, Manila, consumers are led to question ‘Who made my shoes’? 

The Victims of Fire in the Manila Shoe Factory

The fire on Wednesday spread quickly taking victims thought to have suffocated in the toxic smoke. Many more were trapped inside the factory, unable to escape. As police removed bodies from the scene, the death toll rose, with 200 to 300 people estimated to have been inside the building at the time of the fire. The factory is operated by Kentex Manufacturing and produces rubber flip flops and sandals. Survivors told the AFP news agency that factory employees were unaware of fire safety standards and worked in conditions surrounded by chemicals.

Fire in the Manila Shoe Factory Photo credits: AFP/ Getty Images

Fire in the Manila Shoe Factory
Photo credits: AFP/ Getty Images

This marks yet another industrial disaster linked to the global fashion industry. In 2013, 1,133 people died at the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. It was also reported in this case that health and safety standards were not enforced, and so the disaster could have been preventable.Once again, consumers are urged to consider what are stories behind the barcodes of the products they buy.

Fashion Revolution: ‘Who made my clothes?’

Recently on 24th April ‘Fashion Revolution Day’ took place to mark two years since the Rana Plaza factory collapse. This year a record number of consumers participated in the campaign by asking fashion brands ‘who made my clothes?’.

Fashion Revolution Facebook Page.

Fashion Revolution Facebook Page.

London students in particular got involved, aiming to cut and collect 1,133 clothing labels to remember the same number of workers who died at the factory collapse.

shoes

Picture from ‘Cut the Label’ Event in London on 24th April

Since Rana Plaza an increasing amount of fashion brands have responded to the controversy surrounding the responsibility of the industry. H&M pledged living wages for factory workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia.

There has yet to be reports of a response from footwear retailers since the recent disaster in Manila.

The Footwear Industry: ‘Who made my shoes?’

Both the footwear and clothing industries are only predicted to grow. Last year the footwear industry’s annual revenue was reported by the U.S. Census Bureau to be at $48 billion. Foot Locker, one of the largest footwear giants we see on our high streets, ‘walked away’ last year with $5.25 billion in profit.

As summer holiday season approaches, consumers flock to the UK high street to buy flip flops, probably not dissimilar to those made in factories like that in Manila.

The labels of your shoes reveal seemingly little information. How can you find out who made your shoes?

This recent disaster proposes more big questions for the fashion and footwear industries. Consumer and media interest seems to be increasing, especially with the anticipated release of fashion documentary ‘The True Cost’ due on 29th May. The trailer sets out to reveal a story about how the price of clothing has been decreasing whilst the human costs have been seemingly increasing.

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Marianne Caroline Hughes

Marianne Caroline Hughes

Marianne is a 21-year-old Student and Entrepreneur.

She is using social Entrepreneurship to help progress widespread sustainability in the fashion industry.

She is currently based in London, having previously lived in Hong Kong and Helsinki. She speaks English, Spanish and Finnish, and is learning Mandarin.

You can find out more at: www.mariannecaroline.com