If I were to ask you: "Where is your dress from?", what would your reply be?
I'll hold on while you check the label. What does the cotton stitching read?
Ah yes, just last season's ASOS that you threw on this morning. It looks great, by the way. Really brings out your eyes. Doesn't make your butt look big at all.
But that's not what I meant.
Now check the other label. The one that tells you that your dress is 97% polyester and 3% elastane, whatever that means, with all those weird washing symbols that only your mum understands. The one that you've probably cut out because it tickled your thighs when you sat down.
Found it? Great. Now look really, really closely. In a small, sans serif font, probably capitalised...Can you see it? Those three little words that no one pays much attention to. The ones that manufacturers are obligated to declare on your purchases, that tell you that your dress was MADE IN CAMBODIA. Or is it Bangladesh? Or Turkey?
Your outfit is more well travelled than most of us will ever be. It has seen parts of the world that we would struggle locate on a map. But we don't pay attention to that. It's shocking how little we actually know about the origins of our clothes.
I was one of those snotty, irritating children with bags of curiosity and very little sense. My response to every question answered was always, to my mother's annoyance, "but why?"
I wanted to know everything. Why does the sky have to be blue? Why does the grass have to be green? Why can't I have another biscuit...?
And the thing is, I still want to know everything. I want to know more about where my clothes come from than just what the tiny text of the country of origin printed on the label lets on. It's easy to forget that on the other end of the industrial spectrum to you and your debit card, the jacket you're about to purchase from your favourite high-street shop has been sewn up in a factory three-thousand miles away, by a group of hard working seamstresses, working its way along a production chain of hundreds of identical jackets before being packed away and shipped over to be distributed.
But I do want to know who sewed up the side seams on my jacket. I want to know that they are doing alright. I want to know what kind of music they like, what their daughter's called, what she wants to be when she's older, how they like their eggs in the morning.
Maybe if we knew a little more about where are clothes come from and who made them, we would treat them as the creations they are, products of time and energy and skills and finite resources, not just value them by the number on the price tag.
So, fashion industry, this is my plea: let's try for a little transparency.