Although we might put a lot of thought into shopping and filling our wardrobes, we don’t put nearly as much into considering the journey each item of clothing has taken to end up in our hands. And despite what we may presume it is not just machinery constructing our clothing, it's people, and lots of them. It is estimated that 1 in every 6 people alive in the wold today work in some part of the global fashion industry, making it one of the most labour dependent industries in the world.
I can’t help but think of the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to the production of our clothing. As consumers we can easily dismiss and take for granted the things that we aren’t exposed to. Entering a retail environment we are in a pristine consumer haven and far away from any signs of the effect we are having on our planet and its people.
We’ve all heard the term sweatshop, and while it was headline news in the 90’s we assume that this is no longer a relevant term. While this may be truer for China today than ever before, the largest exporter of fashion in the world now has competition from developing countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and Turkey. And due to fast fashion corporations seeking lower production costs they are looking to these countries and moving at least a portion of their production out of China, and therefore moving the problem.
The Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 shone a spotlight on the continued existence of sweatshops as the horrific event claimed more than 1,100 lives, the most fatal of any garment industry incident the world has ever seen. A factory where well known brands, that most of us have likely purchased at least once, produced clothing. And just one factory in a long list that are used indirectly by large corporations, avoiding the responsibility for any malpractice conducted at the factories by going through a middleman.
"There are roughly 40 million garment factory workers worldwide, the majority of whom make less than $3 a day." - The True Cost Movie
The aftermath of this tragedy sparked change in the industry and there is some great work still being carried out in honour of those who lost their lives and to make a difference for generations to come. Fashion Revolution is helping bring awareness to these issues, asking consumers to #whomademyclothes and hold fast fashion companies accountable, because the scary truth is that they themselves don’t necessarily know….and if they don’t know how can we as consumers know.
Although these issues rely on government reform to some extent, transparency from brands is also key, and we have the power as consumers to demand it! Understanding and asking ‘where did my clothes come from?’ and ‘who made my clothes?’ is at the centre of becoming a more conscious consumer. Unfortunately for the most part we continue on, indifferent and unchanged, too enticed by the cheap price tags offered by fast fashion.
Remember each garment originated somewhere, I encourage you to look at the tags on the clothing in your wardrobe and observe the countries they were made in. Consider how much you paid for an item and how much of that went to the person who made it. Put some time into discovering brands manufactured locally and invest back into the country in which you live. Make educated purchase decisions and help push for transparency...because we have a responsibility to our fellow humans and together we can achieve positive change.