Who Made My Pride Merch?
This is a guest blog post by Izzy McLeod
It’s Pride Month, which means a month of celebration for many LGBTQ+ people. Pride Month is a time to celebrate who we are as queer people, a time to protest for a better world, and a time that big brands use to sell us their annual limited-edition, rainbow-covered merchandise.
As LGBTQ+ people have become more accepted in many societies in the world, particularly in the global north, brands have seen Pride as a chance to make money under the pretence of supporting the LGBTQ+ community. They make a t-shirt or a pair of shoes, stick on a rainbow motif, advertise it using some of our favourite queer celebrities and influencers, possibly donate a portion to an LGBTQ+ charity and maybe even sponsor some pride events – then reap the profits!
But there’s something missing from this equation – the people that actually make the clothes. Their presence is absent from many brand’s websites. Most big brands do not even state where in the world their collections are made, let alone what happens in their supply chains, or how their LGBTQ+ garment workers and farmers are treated.
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Three years ago, brands like Primark and H&M made the news because their Pride collections were being made in countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Turkey, and China, where it is illegal to be gay, or where LGBTQ+ people face persecution. The people who make many of these Pride collections are not free to be themselves. With an estimated 98% of garment workers not paid a living wage, gender-based violence rampant in supply chains, and forced labour found at every stage of garment production, the fashion industry is long past the time for change. The support for the LGBTQ+ community from many of these brands does not seem to extend to the people they need to make their clothing, and that is simply not good enough.
Headlines about these collections were almost immediately forgotten about with the next news cycle, and Pride Month news the next year was notably silent about those making Pride merchandise. But we haven’t forgotten, and that’s why Who Made My Pride Merch was started. The campaign is inspired by Fashion Revolution week and is running throughout Pride Month and beyond.
Pride should be about queer liberation for all, not just about capitalising on the Pink Pound. We cannot continue to let brands pander to one part of the LGBTQ+ community while participating in the exploitation of another. Big brands have the power, the money, and the resources to make their supply chains safer and fairer, yet most won’t even disclose where in the world these collections are produced.
Who Made My Pride Merch are spending Pride month asking brands who makes their pride collections, demanding better from the fashion industry, and standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ garment workers worldwide.
LGBTQ+ worker solidarity
Part of the aim of Who Made My Pride Merch is to shine a light on LGBTQ+ garment workers, highlighting the lack of information available about them. We know that LGBTQ+ garment workers are some of the most marginalised people in the sector, with many facing discrimination, sexual violence, and harassment in the workplace, as well as struggling to get and keep jobs due to their sexuality or gender. Being more marginalised also means that it is harder for many LGBTQ+ garment workers to stand up and demand better pay and working conditions.
Unfortunately, information about LGBTQ+ garment workers is hard to find, and without it, their unique struggles are often forgotten.
Pride Month is not the only time in the year that LGBTQ+ people deserve to be recognised, highlighted, and supported. This is why it is important that the Who Makes My Pride Merch campaign stands in solidarity with LGBTQ+ garment workers all year long, beyond Pride Month.
As well as calling for more transparency and better working conditions from the fashion industry, we are also talking to organisations working with garment workers to see how we can better support LGBTQ+ workers in the industry, highlighting their particular challenges so that groups can do more for those who go unnoticed.
We hope you will join us in calling out the hypocrisy of rainbow capitalism, and in working towards a better future for LGBTQ+ garment workers worldwide.
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How to get involved
Much like Fashion Revolution Week, Who Made My Pride Merch is a campaign designed for everyone to get involved in. By taking pictures, asking questions, and sharing stories, we can demand a better future for all in the fashion industry.
More information on all of the ways you can get involved can be found on our campaign page, and our Instagram. By emailing and DMing brands, commenting on social media posts, posting pictures of Pride merch, organising, and learning, we hope we can make more people aware of the reality of Pride merch manufacturing, and put pressure on brands to be more transparent.
Do You Know Where Your Pride T-Shirt Was Made? | The New York Times