The fashion industry has a huge impact on our world today. Being one of the biggest industries, it comes as no surprise that 1 out of 6 people alive today work in some part of the world's fashion industry, where we have greed and power on one side, fear and poverty on the other side.
Our chosen skin
As a consumer we communicate who we are, to a certain extend, through the clothes we are wearing. The clothes are our chosen skin, our personal communication. Every new fashion season reinvents the idea of fashion, and new trends are born. This also means that the clothes from last season will be thrown out. We buy 400% more clothes than just two decades ago. The increase in consumption has its consequences. We went from seeing clothes as a product we use to a product we use up, like toilet paper or cigarettes. The average American throws away 37 kg. of textile waste each year. Most of the waste is non-biodegradable, meaning it sits in landfills for 200 years or more, while releasing harmful gasses into the air. This is a careless production, and an endless consumption. All design and production should be done in a way that is not as harmful to the planet.
Production outsourced to developing countries
USA produced 95% of their clothes in the 1960's. Today it is only 3%. The rest have been outsourced to developing countries, which make it a lot cheaper to produce. A new model known as fast fashion arised when the American began outsourcing their production. This has ultimately transformed how the clothes are bought and sold. Instead of 2 seasons a year, we practically have 52 seasons a year.
Garment workers pay the price for cheap clothing
The low-cost economies, the developing countries, get the work, but since they are so desperate for work they go down in price if the companies wants them to. If they say no to the company, wanting to employ them, the company will just go to the competitor. They are always trying to survive. Low costs for the company means that the factory owner has to cut costs and disregard safety measures. This has become an accepting part of doing businesses until the April morning in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when the eight-story garment factory, Rana Plaza, collapsed killing 1.129 workers. The garment workers were paying the price for cheap clothing, and worst of all, the management were well aware of the cracks in the building. We can simply not ignore other peoples lives just because we are greedy and know that we are in power.
The workers have no voice
Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporter after China. There are 40 million garment workers in textile factories in the world, and 4 million of these workers are in Bangladesh. The workers in Bangladesh earn about 2-3 Dollars a day, which makes them the lowest paid garment workers in the world. 5.000 of the factories make clothes for major western brands, and more than 85% of the workers in Bangladesh are women. They work very long hours, and often they have to bring their children with them to work. All the dangerous chemicals in the factories are affecting the health of these women and children. The workers are voiceless in the wider supply chain, and they are forced to accept the conditions. It has to be the people with power who take responsibility for their actions, and start a revolution.
The land is reconsidered as if it were a factory. In the past 10 years, 80% is now GM cotton - Genetically Modified cotton. Most of Indian cotton is grown in the Punjab region, which is quickly become the largest user of pesticides in India. The effect of the chemicals on human health are birth defects, cancer, mental retardation, and physical retardation. The companies behind the fertilizers and pesticides are totally refusing the after effects of the pesticides and fertilizers, and these are the classical symptoms of the toxicity. The companies making the GM seeds and chemicals are the same companies. They are also the same companies making the medicine. For them it is a win-win. For people and the nature it is a lose-lose. Often the farmers can't afford the seeds, and then the companies come to claim the land. The horrible consequence for the farmer and his family is that a lot of the farmers commit suicide because they can't see a way out. From 1999-2015 there have been more than 250.000 reported farmer suicides in India. It is the largest wave of suicides recorded in history.
All about the profit
It is all about the profit, but who thinks about the costs? The cost of polluting the water, the cost of labor, the cost of bars on the windows, people dying when a fire breaks out, the cost of farmers who don't have access to education and health care.
Kanpur is the capital of leather exports from India, and here cheap leather is produced. Every day in Kanpur more than 50 million liters of toxic wastewater pour out of the local tanneries and into the drinking water. Soil is contaminated, the local environment is polluted, the only source of drinking water, the groundwater is contaminated with chromium, agricultural products and people's health are affected. All the money that they have are used on medication.
The companies are not owning the factories, so they don't acknowledge their responsibility. However we have to acknowledge that human capital is part of this miraculous formular. Without human capital, without cheap female labor, it would not be generating the profits that it is. All clothing have been touched by human hands.
You can draw a clear line from capitalism to fast fashion
The economic system has not been criticised for many years, and then it gets rotten. Capitalism is the reason why the fashion industry looks like it does today. The main thing you have to do if you operate in a capitalist system is to create profit. They push the wages down and down in order to create more profit than the competition.
Slow fashion is the future
There are a lot of work to be done in order to convert the fashion industry from being concerned with fast fashion to focus more on slow fashion. It is a matter of willpower because it is all attainable. We will start by doing our part and contribute where ever we can.