How are clothes made? Not by machines, by people. How often do you enter a store and think to yourself, “who made these clothes?” The frightening reality is that a person did make your clothing, and more often than not, that person is not being treated or paid fairly.
For example, in Bangladesh, over three million people work for the fashion and textile industry. 85% of those three million people are women, three quarters of whom have been verbally abused and half of who have been beaten, all of who work in excess of legal working hours for less than minimum wage. In the West we hear about tragedies like the Rhana Plaza disaster in 2013, however we often forget the day-to-day occurrences of single workers dying to do extreme working conditions or the lethal accumulation of lead in the worker’s bodies.
I’d like to suggest a concept that is quite controversial, that is globalization of the fashion and textile industry as a broken promise. Women are presented this type of employment as means of empowerment, and a way to escape a relationship and a way to become financially independent. This pressure is put on these women by the governments of the countries being ‘globalized’. These governments feel this pressure from retailors in the first world. The retailors receive this pressure, from us, the consumer.
I mentioned in a previous post the concept of fast fashion. Fast fashion can be summarized as prices of clothing being so low that the purchase is easy and the disposal painless. Fast fashion is the current trend in the clothing industry, this system only works however if clothes can be sold cheaply, and clothes can only be sold cheaply if they can be cheaply manufactured. The companies’ solution is often socially unsustainable practices, such as the exploitation of workers and resources. So consumers are currently buying and throwing out clothing at unprecedented rates, pushing forward the economic trend supporting this exploitation.
What conclusion can we come to? The power to end this is in our hands and take responsibility of choices when we purchase clothing. We need to make choices when we buy clothes, that inform the clothing industries that what we want is not lots cheaply made clothes, but we’d like to invest in pricier clothing, made well, so as to change the current fast fashion trend.
Some concrete ways to do this are, as previously mentioned making conscious decisions about what we buy. I would also recommend informing yourself on what brands make an effort to pay and treat their workers fairly. I was shocked when I read up on many of the brands I regularly shop at, like Zara and Old Navy, have been accused of slave-like working conditions. I propose to you to find either local manufacturers or just shop less at places that exploit their workers, encouraging them to stop their fast fashion. I do, however, steer completely clear of certain retailers, such as Forever 21 who have made no changes to their manufacturing process, since these issues really came to light in 2013.
There is hope, and know that we as consumers have the power and capacity to change the situation. Let us spend a little bit more on quality pieces, and save some lives.