If we see it, why don’t we change it?
“I made your clothes.”
Bangladesh, Savar: it is April 24th 2013, a collapse – also known as the deadliest disaster ever in the textile factory – has shaken the world. 1134 people died and around 2500 people were injured. Not only was it the deadliest disaster in the textile industry, but also the deadliest architectural disasters in modern history. This factory, called Rana Plaza, produced for brands such as Benneton, el Corte Ingles, Mango, Primark, Walmart. What was wrong? There shouldn’t have been a factory in the building in the first place. Although different cracks were observed, the managers of the factories still told their people to come to work. Some even said that they would stop paying if workers didn’t show up. The whole industry was all in the hands of corruption and carelessness.
“This is old news…right?”
The fashion industry moved to low-wage countries long ago. It is (still) all about the use of cheaper workers, cheaper raw materials and cheaper labour-intensive nature; all common knowledge, right? What is actually happening within the fashion industry, is that the market is very fragmented. It is even so fragmented that it isn’t clear anymore where or under which circumstances the clothing is being produced
“it is all far away, so I don’t have to think about that.”
When the customers don’t ask for the ethics of the production, why focus on that when you can focus on price and speed instead. The producers are forced to produce more, faster and cheaper, because that is what the consumer is expecting and the reason to buy more.
“At least we give them a job. It is better than nothing for them.”
Producers are constantly moving from location to location to find even cheaper labour. These producers are taking advantage of the poor population who have no choice. Thus, they start working for any salary and in any working condition. You might hear the producers and fashion brands say that they pay minimum legal wage. However, in most of these countries this minimum wage is between half to a fifth of the living wage.
For this wage the workers often work to 14-16 hours a day to meet the brand’s deadlines. Seven days a week is a normal work week. And during peak season garment workers sometimes have to work until 2 or 3am. During these workdays, the workers are exposed to toxic substances, fiber dust, no ventilation and they work in unsafe buildings like the Rana Plaza. To add to these circumstances, the workers often face verbal and physical abuse.
“Destroyed lives at a young age?”
In the western world, child labour isn’t allowed anymore, but around 168 million children are still forced to work. Within the leather industry even children from 12 years old are forced to work in, for example India, Bangladesh etc. Those kids are forced to work under the same circumstances as the ‘normal’ workers.
“The clothing industry is the second most polluting industry in the world and one of the largest employers of slave and child labour.” – Maxine Bédat, co-founder of Zady.
If fashion has to reflect who you are, what you feel at the moment and where you’re going, like Pharrell Williams said. Why can’t we stop producing under inhuman conditions? If we know all these facts about this industry and see all these sustainable clothing popping up. WHY don’t we change? Don’t we see it or don’t we want to see it? There has to be more transparency about how the clothing is made. It is a problem of world format, and it needs to change.
“Transparency is the first step towards accountability”