As a kid I used to say: ‘’I’ll go to millionaires school, and once I graduate I will be a millionaire’’. It was part of my life plan to be a millionaire before 30. I love things like beautiful jewelry, owning a boat, buying multiple holiday homes and drinking fancy cocktails all day.
Well it turned out millionaires school doesn’t exist and unless I win a lottery with a ticket that I found on the streets I will not hit the six 0’s soon. But there are people that do hit ‘em. Not by winning the lottery, but by owning a certain business. A fashion business in this case. I would like to introduce three fashion bosses to match a face to a brand’s name. Hopefully they are nice people, because we do let them buy a new boat by purchasing from them 😉
This is Amancio Ortega on his yacht which is said to be 67 meters long. Talking about owning a boat… Phoe! Ortega is owner of Inditex, the parent company of among others Zara and Pull&Bear. He is the 3rd richest man on our planet with a net worth of over €70 billion. Ortega is not always chilling on his yacht. It is said that the 80 year old man still works most days. ‘Go chill on your yacht!’ I would say.
Moving on to Stefan Persson, the 16th world richest man with his wealth valued at £11.4billion, which may seem ‘peanuts’ by now, and also owner of H&M. On of his purchases is an entire English village. Not that the man had no place to stay, naturally. He already owns a 8,500-acre estate in Wiltshire and Persson, even though he spends most time in Stockholm anyway. Money’s gotta roll, doesn’t it?
Then we have the face behind the biggest fashion retailer by volume in UK. Can you guess which retailer? Paul Marchant is the CEO of Primark since 2009 (did you guess right?). The chain is founded in Ireland in 1969, and is nowadays spread over 11 countries with 330 stores. No small stores by the way, they just opened a 55.000 sq ft store in Staten Island, US. Revenue in 2015 was about €4 billion and it does not seem to be any less this years.
Now why do I mention all this? I am not against making money. There is nothing illegal about that. But is does strike me that at the very other end of the chain, in Bangladesh, where most clothes are being made, the stories are so different. You may be already familiar with the stories about poor working conditions, wages below minimum, and about Rana Plaza. Rana Plaza took 1133 lives after a garment factory collapsed like a house of cards. 1133 dead out of the 2000 people that worked in the building.
This disaster shined a light on the fashion industry. For the first time actual garment workers were interviewed. It turned out the crappiness of the building was known, but simply ignored. The garment workers of Rana Plaza produced, among others, clothes for Primark. I find this incident striking, bizarre, but most of all deeply sad.
The mentioned rich men probably worked very hard for their empires. But why don’t they use their success to inspire and support others? This does not mean that they should donate large sums of money to charity. However, they could use the profit of their company to better the lives of their employees. By for example offering education and training, or simply, but most importantly, offering a safe working place. Even a simple fire hose can make a big difference! Because shouldn’t that be normal? And not seen as charity or heroic?
On a practical note, what can we do? Every time you buy something, you cast a vote. You vote for what you stand for and you ‘carry the story of the people who make your clothes around with you’ (quote by Ali Hewson, founder of Edun). And let me tell you that there are so many candidates to pick from. Moreover, plenty of candidates that deserve to win more than companies like Primark. Let’s say shopping at Primark is like voting for Trump. Unnecessary and disappointing. Please be aware of that and vote well.