H&M and a number of major fashion industry figures and publications are rallying to promote Swedish fast fashion giant H&M’s latest Conscious Collection, which is being fronted by Julia Reston Roitfeld, daughter of former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld. According to a statement from Henrik Lampa, H&M’s environmental sustainability manager: “We hope that [this collection] will inspire folks We hope that this is contributing to putting the innovation forward and showing a statement that fashion and sustainability are just a perfect match.” But not so fast; let’s not forget that just two months ago, a massive fire broke out at one of H&M’s supplier factories …
While H&M has been busy touting its latest recycling initiatives and its “Conscious Collection” (a look from which is pictured above) and taking part in other greenwashing initiatives, a massive fire occurred at a Bangladeshi sweater factory that serves as one if its suppliers. The blaze broke out on Tuesday morning in the Matrix Sweater Factory in Gazipur, an overseas supplier for the Swedish fast fashion giant, injuring at least five garment factory workers.
According to global labor rights advocates, however, the incident “barely escaped inflicting tragedy on a much deeper scale [as] most of the factory’s 6,000+ workers had not yet showed up to work” that morning. According to a joint statement from the Clean Clothes Campaign, the International Labor Rights Forum, the Maquila Solidarity Network and the Worker Rights Consortium: “Had the fire started even one hour later … the risk of death would have been extreme.”
The fire originated at the level seven of the multi-storyed Matrix Sweater factory building at around 7:30 am, said Hasibur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Fire Service and Civil Defence department at Joydevpur. The factory, which was located on one of the top floors of on the the building, was reportedly ablaze for nearly four hours before firefighters could contain it.
Still, other sources report that the exact same factory caught fire just several days before. Reporting on Tuesday’s fire, Quartz noted that the “Matrix factory was inspected in May of 2014 by a US-based ‘Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.’ The inspection found that the factory lacked adequate fire doors, sprinklers, fire alarms, and fire hoses, among other deficiencies.”
The latest garment factory incident comes on the heels of a November 2012 fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in the nation’s capital of Dhaka, which killed at least 117 people, and after the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013, which killed more than 1,100 people.