– Post by Charis Kibble
The fashion and textiles industry is one of the world’s largest industries. It brings in billions of pounds each year and is responsible for millions of jobs world wide.
It’s a powerful industry that over the years has dramatically changed the projection of our economy, and has seen the rise and fall of fashion trends that have changed the way we live and express ourselves. All who wear clothes are involved.
And yet, buried amidst the mass complexity of it all, exploitation and corruption still exists.
‘In Bangladesh two brave women approach their boss with a signed letter from all their colleagues stating that they’d like to start a union and would like to apply for fairer wages. Their request is rejected, they are beaten and abused and told to get back to work. The factory doors are locked and everyone inside is told that they can’t go home until the next orders are met.’
‘In a factory in the UK a migrant worker is being forced to work long hours packing clothing to be sold on an online clothing site. He has had his passport taken away from him. Any mention of this to the authorities would see him being deported back to his own country.’
‘Somewhere in a factory in India a young child struggles to stay awake as he sits beside a fabric dye bath – his job is to stop the fabric passing through from twisting and getting caught in the machinery. He doesn’t go to school, instead he works to support his family. Not one of the companies who buy the products he helps make ever come to India to check up on them.’
Though these examples seem like one off scenarios, the truth is these stories are actually driven from countless re-telling’s of exploitation across the fashion supply chain. Exploitation isn’t just a third world country issue, it is happening everywhere and it is happening a lot.
I personally first started learning about all of the issues involved whilst I was at university. I was studying hand embroidery in London and had stumbled across the sustainable fashion brand People Tree. I read up on all they did, and thought it was great. Though I was intrigued as to why it was so necessary for them to be pioneering a new way of doing fashion.
Obviously, now I am older and wiser and have become fully immersed in the movement of sustainable fashion, I am better equipped in understanding what exactly is going on. Corruption is widespread and change has to be made to ensure that the people who make our clothes are treated with fairness and equality.
Though it must be said, I do often have moments of doubt, where I question what a difference I can really make in an industry so huge.
I recently had a chat with a CEO of a very well known shoe company.
He told me that he can often tell within two days of an item being released in the stores, whether it will sell well or not. And if it does, he knows exactly what type of styles to order in for next time.
It is important to know that every time you buy clothes, you are essentially voting with your money, you are telling companies what you love and what you don’t. You are the reason they exist.
So if you, like me want to make a difference to the fashion industry you can start by becoming someone who votes well with their money.
There are many new sustainable fashion brands on the scene that are all committed to transparency in their supply chains and who provide fair wages for the people who make their clothes.
Know the Origin, People Tree, Po-Zu, Idioma, Brothers We Stand and Thought Clothing are just a few of my favourites. You can support them in all they do by making the decision to swap where you shop.
And if spending money isn’t enough of a vote you can use your voice too!
You have the power to tell clothing companies that you want them to be honest and transparent. Making it known exactly where their clothes are coming from and who the people are that are making them. You can tell those companies that you want them to make sure that the people they employ are being treated right.
One really simple way you can do this is by joining the Fashion Revolution movement on the 23rd – 29th of April where hundreds of people will be asking their favourite fashion brands #whomademyclothes !?
Find out more and see the other ways you can be involved in the fashion revolution at: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/about/get-involved/
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23
Charis does hand embroidery, and runs a blog about ethical fashion – do check out her work here! https://www.charisesther.com/