I love fashion. Let me put that first. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with the way fashion is produced. A few weeks ago, I watched a documentary about the fashion industry on Netflix called The True Cost and I was shocked. I even cried while watching it and I never cry when I’m watching a movie. I have thought a lot about fashion and the way it’s created since and I think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the fashion industry.
The True Cost is about the production process of fashion and everything that happens before clothes hang in stores. Mainly, the documentary is about so-called fast fashion, which is an approach to the design, creation and marketing of fashion that emphasizes on making fashion quickly and cheaply available to consumers. At first you might think “Great, cheaper clothes!”. Well, then you’ve got another think coming. Because, if you have to pay less for clothes, the factory will receive less money. That’s were things get interesting, because the production costs haven’t gone down. So, the factory owner must cut expenses elsewhere. In most cases, the workers will get payed less.
On average a garment worker in Bangladesh (the fourth largest garment exporter) earns 29 euro a month. To compare, the living wage in Bangladesh is 53 euro a month. The factory workers work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week and they don’t even earn enough money to provide for their families. On top of that, the conditions they work in are horrible; toxic chemicals are in the air, people are cramped together and many female workers get sexually harassed.
You have probably heard of the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013. A clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing more than 1,100 workers and injuring about 2,500. There were multiple causes for the collapse, for example there were four floors added illegally and the building was never meant to be used as a factory. This is the deadliest accident in the garment industry. What makes it worse is that the workers had reported cracks in the walls the day before, but were forced to come into work the following day anyway. The factory owners had threatened to withhold one month’s pay, which the workers couldn’t afford.
We have landed in a downward spiral; when one factory produces cheap clothes, another will have produce even cheaper clothes otherwise the fashion brands will move their business. So, what now? I think the first step in awareness; if more people are aware of the problems in the fashion industry, more people will be conscious of the clothes they buy. Besides that, the minimum wage for garment workers should go up and working conditions must increase. To achieve that, policies of fashion brands will need to change. Also, laws will need to be made. And executed.
I know we still have a long way to go, but every little thing helps. If I have only made one person aware of the bad conditions garment workers work in with this article, I’ll be happy. We need to make each other aware and hopefully thing will change soon.