Wow! Well that as a looong work week. Fresh off the plane after a 55+ hour week with my Corporate job (this week in NYC). I participated in a nation wide conference filled with presentations, information, fun games, breakout sessions ect. I wish I had more time to actually enjoy the city but was happy to get a “Free night” and spend some time with a friend in her neck of the woods just across the bridge (because every blog post needs some color, I threw some photos in)
One presentation during this conference really focused on the changing way we shop. We all know online shopping is going through the roof but brick and mortar stores are still relevant. The US may be over saturated with shopping malls but once that is fixed the brands still want to entice customers into their shops. How do they propose to do this? The suggestions turned into an open conversation and many spoke about customer service, more promotions, in store events and of course more SALES!
Super Saturday sales, clearance, dropping prices all seem good on the surface…I mean I get it, I love saving money too (that is one reason why I am cleaning out my closet and focusing on re-useable, re-wearable fashion that I already own). But the thing is (which I guess no one thought of) these fashion companies still have to make a profit and the only way to make a profit from slashing retail prices is cutting it somewhere else…usually on the production front. It is NO secret that overseas factories can produce garments at fast rates and substantial amounts but at what cost?…Hello child labor, sweat shops, deteriorating environments…
How can American’s purchase 5x more clothing now than in 1980 and NOT spend nearly as much? Answer: cheaper labor; How: in developing countries in order to simply survive millions of people (including children) are working 14-16 hours days for pennies an hour in horrid working conditions. Conditions that in places like Bangladesh are easily seen as owners are trying to save money and secure accounts from many big box retailers. Some regulations and rules are in place but if these retailers are not enforcing these rules (by official inspections and pulling their business on failing grades) why would the factory owner (I guess being a decent human being is not enough)?
Besides the criminally low wages and disastrous working conditions, fast fashion A.K.A cheaper made clothing (so a consumer buys more for less) creates a TON more waste. If you think about it something made cheaper never lasts as long. It hits the fashion graveyard much sooner prompting consumers to buy more thus waste more. Ever thought about where the excess fabric dyes go? It is common practice to dump chemically contaminated water into rives and water sources even if there are laws against it (why? simple-no one enforces them).
Did you hear about the collapse of Rana Plaza back in 2013? The worst garment factory accident in history killing over 1,000 and injuring more than 2,500. This may be the worst but it was not the first time something like this happened.
Reading this young girl’s story who was forced into child labor when her father suffered a debilitating stroke is eye opening. It is an educational read sparking an inspiring story. I ask you this: As a consumer would you pay 1-3% more per garment if you knew it would insure workers rights with fair wages and safe working conditions? It is hard to say no, right? (especially after reading her story)
These workers need wages for survival so really company transparency is key. Demanding that these billion dollar clothing companies truthfully report names and address of factories they use could work wonders. If consumers hold them accountable they will take notice. After all it is the consumer who provides their lifeline to sales and thus market success. Look at Nike (excerpted from the above article) in the 1990s consumers protested and boycotted the brand until they showed proof they stopped working with overseas factories known for their abusive labor tactics. Now they have a specific group responsible for insuring factory conditions are acceptable. If more big names followed their lead how many more lives could be positively affected?
Check out The Clean Clothes Campaign and see how this organization is fighting for workers rights and safe working conditions across the globe.
Truthfully speaking, I feel like I knew but I didn’t really know. I am glad I educated myself a bit better on what seems to be a hidden issue. I feel comfortable now challenging the fashion company I work for to be transparent in hope that more will follow and together we can achieve…..(should I throw in world peace? I stopped writing because it felt like I was typing a pageant answer lol)….not to make lite of a serious situation but seriously, I will challenge my company and brands I like most and hold them accountable to do their part in the name of all that is HUMANLY RIGHT and I hope you will too!