I believe in slow fashion ideas, in ethical production, and in giving some additional value to the product other than just appearance and price. So is there an easy solution for cutting out abused workers in Third World countries?
I used to be a fan of Zara, Bershka, and other big names and companies who provide cheap clothes in line with the latest trends. This is a huge temptation as most of us don’t have an unlimited budget but still want to look chic. I used to be a fan of grilled chicken as well until I switched to being a vegetarian, so I guess anything can change with awareness.
With more and more information becoming easily available, we have the chance to make our own decisions. It’s not always easy, but it is possible. I started thinking about ethics in the clothing industry more than ever after watching a shocking Norwegian show that sent fashion bloggers to work in Cambodian sweatshops. Everybody had the same reaction: It’s horrible and inhumane for people to work for $120 per month, producing clothes for only a few cents while the shops we buy them from make hundreds. Of course it’s awful that “normal” for many children is to work in these factories in dangerous and even life-threatening conditions where they have to deal with a lack of any social security support. However, the solution is not as easy as we think.
Having awareness of who makes your clothes is one thing, but influencing factories which mostly work through contracts with external representatives in the middle is very difficult and much more complicated since everybody pushes the responsibility onto others. Very often, big companies don’t even have direct contacts and either don’t’ know or don’t care who is executing the orders. Stopping the whole process by not buying from the big chains will not help, even when we disregard the fact that some clients will stay loyal no matter what. By decreasing production, many of those workers’ families will lose their only source of income. Although the salaries are super low, the people depend on them to survive. Opening markets for the labor force ultimately has a positive impact as the market has a need for people speaking the same language and with local expertise. It helps to grow the economy and begin the transformation.
In my opinion, there some hope in increasing “quality control and regulation” of the big brands. From a PR perspective, it may be very beneficial all around since public trust and good public opinion will increase, which will raise stock market values. If H&M or Mango, for example, can spend million in public relations activities, why can they not agree to improve factory conditions by providing just a slightly higher unit price? One cent per item would allow factories to hire workers in more regulated conditions.
I believe that the customers would change as well; we would start thinking about the process behind the design, just as we’ve become more and more aware about our food over the past few years. Of course, we all still stop for fast food from time to time, but in the long term the information does generally help us make more healthy choices. A change such as this would help us to make “healthier choices” in the fashion industry as well.
ps. Join the Fashion Revolution
Today is Fashion Revolution Day. Show your label and ask brands #whomademyclothes? #FashRev http://thndr.it/1BL0dWQ