Fashion is assumed to be something glamorous and something that makes us feel good. But not all is glamorous about it. You just need to take a look at how fashion is produced.
Let’s step back from the view of fashion as something fantastic and fabulous, and let’s take a look on the journey that dress has behind itself.
It is time to stop ignoring the grim, gritty, global supply chain of fast fashion:
Fashion Brands want to produce new items at a fast pace, trying to keep the production cost as low as possible. With the final product they want to offer a good price on the market against their competition, but still making a lot of profit. Their top three criteria are: Fast production, Low Production cost, Good margin for the brand.
To achieve this some things become secondary, nearly almost irrelevant, like under which circumstances the product has been made, how the quality of the product is, and how long it will last.
The production takes place in developing countries like Bangladesh or Malaysia, where cheap labor can be found.
The factories have their own business in mind and try to undersell the competitors and keep the pricing lower, not to lose the big fashion client. And where can the margin be adjusted the most?
You might have guessed it right, the workers.
The workers in fashion factories gain a very low salary per month, which not even guarantees to live a decent life. To meet the requests of the fast-fashion brand very often overtime is required, of course unpaid.
The workers in fast fashion factories are having no rights, in case they would file in an official complaint or go on the streets to demonstrate, they will have to face serious consequences not just like losing their job but also bodily harm. One of the reasons why workers pledge their employers to change is also a dangerous situation they are exposed to while working like unstable buildings. Like in 2013 when the factory Plaza Rana in Bangladesh collapsed and more than 1000 people died and more than 2000 people were injured. Most of the workers are women but often the factories also benefit from child labour.
It is not just about the people who work in the factories, but it is also about how the materials they are using are sourced and processed.
The farming and production of fabrics has become a big business itself, as the requests of the fashion brands are growing and the factories are speeding up, the materials used for fashion have to follow in the same speed.
Let’s take a look at the cotton plantation, here tremendous amounts of chemicals have to be used to ensure faster growth. These sprayed chemicals pollute the air and affect people who live around and in areas like these, a lot of people are getting e.g. cancer or other diseases.
To avoid the constraints of nature, synthetic fibers like polyester and polyamide are becoming the easy and go-to option, using resources like oil. One negative effect of these synthetic fibers is that they take more than 200 years to break down, and they are polluting the oceans with so-called microfibers, with every single wash.
For animal-based materials like furs and leathers, the way the animals are held and treated is unacceptable (don’t believe that you upcycle the leathers of the animals we’re also eating). Also, to color the leather, highly dangerous chemicals like chrome are being used, which have a negative impact on the environment.
Many other materials like cotton are processed using highly dangerous coloring techniques that pollute the drinking water and rivers in the regions, increasing malfunctions and disabilities of people living in that region.
The products produced are being sold to people and most of the revenues go in the pockets of big companies (60% of revenues in fashion go in the pockets of 35 big company conglomerates), making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
And we as customers, are part of the problem. With the daily decisions, we are making to buy this product or the other.
We need to start being more aware of the products we are buying and what are the hidden costs of it (please also read our article: “How much does your 10€ dress really cost”
Isn’t it funny* that we buy a t-shirt with a female empowerment print from a fast-fashion brand but thinking about who was the women who made it?
Isn’t it funny* that we are concerned about how much meat we eat, but we don’t want to think about how it is possible that a real leather boot costs €40?
Isn’t it funny* that we pay attention that the food we eat is healthy, and we give our body vitamin boosts, but we don’t care about which chemicals the clothes we wear are processed with? Or with other words, which chemicals we put every day on our skin, which is our biggest organ?
*And with funny, we mean sad.
The first thing we have to do is to become aware of how the products we buy without thinking are made and to become more conscious and start rethinking our purchase decisions.
Following thins thought, we have decided to create the blog series “A mindful and conscious consumption”, here you can find our first part: “Introduction to a mindful and conscious consumption”.