We’re all guilty of it, seeing the latest fashion trends and wanting/needing that gorgeous boho top or that patterned dress that would be just perfect for your next holiday or party. So you hit the shops and are faced with some options; buy one dress from a higher-end brand that is just beautiful or head to a cheaper shop where you can pick up a whole outfit for your holiday/party for the same price including jewellery and shoes which are pretty nice, they don’t fit quite so well but hey if you don’t like it next month it’s so cheap you can just buy a new one!
Amidst the excitement of your amazing new look which makes you look like a total supermodel, you might stop for a moment and think “how can these be so cheap – a vest top for £3, a dress for £20? Well they probably don’t pay the workers much but it’s way cheaper to live in places like China and Indonesia and at least I’m giving them a job right?” Wrong.
The cheap fashion industry that we have all become so used to is allowing Asia’s workers to live like rats with no dignity, working in hideously dangerous factories with barely a roof over their heads and not enough money to feed themselves in order to gain enough energy to work the 6 days a week to sew endless dresses and vest tops for Western brands. They become trapped in an endless cycle, particularly women, where they will work tirelessly for 20 years with no hope of promotion and not being able to earn enough money to survive, let alone save up for any leisure activities or a good education for their children. This inescapable rat wheel has thus been deemed as modern day slavery.
There have been numerous unions formed where workers fight for their right to better working conditions and a decent living wage. However, a prime example of the consequences associated with such actions was that in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2013-2014 where garment factory workers went on strike. These innocent people simply asking for these basic conditions were met with gun shots from the police resulting in 4 being killed and 27 seriously injured. This is nothing new, demands like this have been going on for 30 years and barely any improvements have been made. Instead hundreds of tragedies occur every year, including the most devastating and recent below:
Ali Enterprises Factory – Karachi, Pakistan – 11 Sept 2012 – 289 killed
Tazreen Fashion Factory – Dhaka, Bangladesh – 24 Nov 2012 – 117 killed
Rahat Manzil Building – Mumbai, India – 12 April 2016 – 5 killed
Rana Plaza – Dhaka, Bangladesh – 24 April 2013 – 1130 killed
If we continue to buy that cheap outfit rather than the one beautiful and more expensive dress, the endless cycle of bad working conditions and inadequate wages will continue because the demand is still there. Brands know they have the upper hand and factory owners will do anything to keep their business and workers will do anything to keep their job. This doesn’t mean you need to stop buying the latest trends, it just means being conscious of what you’re buying and questioning how and why it is the price it is. Look into a brand’s ethical values and make sure that whatever you buy that you will wear it at least 40 times. This is better for the planet, people…and probably your purse too!