The Other Side of Fashion
I was shocked to find out that only about 10% of the clothes we wear are made in the UK, which means that about 90% is outsourced to developing countries; this of course doesn’t only concern the UK but also the rest of the western countries.
In the last 20 years what is known as ‘fast fashion’ has not only affected the way we perceive fashion, but also how it is produced; the value retailers’ raise to power and the continue drop of prices brought to a high street revolution, making it possible for us to buy more… but at what price?
All of the goods manufacturing has been outsourced to developing countries where wages and salaries are low. As John Hilary, director of War on Want explains: “those at the top of the value change get to choose where the products are made, and they get to switch manufacturers if the factories try to raise their price up”. This results in a way of producing that only cares about the big businesses’ interests.
Low living wages are not the only issue – recently in the news some horror stories reviling a new face of the fashion industry have been coming to light: the factory collapse in Dhaka (pictured left), Bangladesh (considered the worst factory disaster in history, killing more than 1,000 workers) and the factory fires both in Ali Enterprises in Pakistan (over 200 deaths and over 600 people severely injured) and in Tazreen Fashion in Bangladesh (over 100 deaths and 200 critically injured) are just a few of the many industry disasters caused by the negligence of their wealthy contractors.
Unsurprisingly, the spokespersons of these big industries have been quick at finding excuses to justify their dirty actions. For example Kate Bill-Young, sourcing manager of Joe Fresh, replied: “there is worst things that they could be doing” when asked her opinion on the conditions of the workers; she then added: “there is nothing dangerous with selling clothes, it is a relatively safe industry”.
I have never heard anything ‘safe’ in relation to the working conditions in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Mexico and the rest of the manufacturing countries. It seems to me as low wages and the industry disasters are overseen because of the jobs that they create for people with no alternatives.
‘Fast fashion’ has also been terribly affecting our environment: nowadays 70% of the worldwide cultivation of cotton is GMO with the US, India, China and Brazil as top producers. Over a decade ago Monsanto, an American company based in Missouri, started producing genetically modified cotton, where a gene is added from a bacteria to create a toxin. BT Cotton, which was supposed to control a pest, has been forced onto manufacturers because it is a way for the company to control the seed.
Chemicals, whether pesticides or fertilisers, are also known as ‘ecological narcotics’ for a reason: the more you use them, the more you need to use them. While initially crops seem to grow at a faster rate, they soon start to slow down as the soil has been contaminated. This results into a high number of farmers losing their land, because they are not able to afford the high cost of fertilisers. In India, the second largest producer of cotton, many suicides have been linked to the ‘Monsanto failure’; according to the Indian National Bureau of Crime Records nearly one lakh persons (100,000 people) per year are committing suicide due to bankruptcy and indebtedness.
Ultimately, the rise of ‘fast fashion’ has had serious impacts on us – the consumers. In contemporary Western societies, materialism and advertising have become the core of our culture. If we look closer, we’ll notice that fashion, through media, sells an aspirational lifestyle rather than just clothes, which is what makes it so easy for people to create an emotional link with what they are seeing, and then buy into it. In the documentary ‘The True Cost’ (which I recommend everyone to watch!), Guido Brera, an investment manager, explains how in fashion the decrease of prices has followed the middle class’ crisis – consequently, although people are not able to afford what they really need like a house, insurance and education, (almost) as a consolation people can still buy one or two fashion items per day – entering a vicious cycle and at the same time becoming poorer.
It is clear that in the last two decades fashion, along with technology, has massively grown into something that has been negatively affecting our planet and us. Who is really paying the price of CHEAP fashion? Why is it that in the ads and magazines nobody ever speaks about the production behind fashion?
I invite everyone to take a second to think and reflect about all these other faces of the fashion industry, which cannot be ignored anymore.
What better world will you build tomorrow?
By Greta Blu Greta’s Blog