Welcome back to the blog everyone! After a nice break, it is nice to be back to blogging. Over break, the last thing on mind was probably fashion. I would be the first to admit that during break, I rocked the same two pairs of sweatpants, a very couture look I know. If your family is anything like mine though, you may have found some new threads under the tree on Christmas morning. My parents generously gifted me some new pieces from stores I advertise a lot on this blog, such as HM and Forever 21, which offer trendy pieces for very low prices. However, after receiving the gifts, I paused. It is not hidden knowledge, that fast fashion stores utilize sweat shops to produce the majority of their clothing. It felt increasingly hypocritical of me to receive clothing from my Indian immigrant parents, that were most likely made by workers in the same nation under horrific conditions, in the name of a holiday that has no religious significance to me as a Hindu. So, why then did I now have wrapping paper and guilt surrounding me?
The fast-fashion industry first took off in the 1990s. Manufacturers chose to relocate production from the West to developing countries in Asia, to find cheaper labor that would allow them to maximize profits. Since then, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Indonesia have become the main sites of production for these businesses. Many large companies choose this area not only because of the low wages, but also because of the lack regulatory oversight in many Asian countries. Many of these countries have regulations for production, but these regulations are often disregarded, with little authority holding companies accountable.
After more than a decade since the industry began its rise, accounts of widespread mistreatment of workers have become increasingly easy to find. These brands have taken advantage of people, most of whom are women and living in poverty, allowing employers to pay their workers less than $2 a day, in unsafe working conditions.
On April 24, 2013, the eight-story Rana Plaza building outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people and injuring thousands of others. At the time, the building housed five garment factories that manufactured goods for major retail companies in Europe and North America. It is considered the deadliest disaster in the garment industry. The causes included shoddy construction, a building with too many floors and too much heavy equipment for the structure to withstand.
The incident shook Bangladesh’s $28 billion garment industry, the second largest in the world behind China. It drew attention to horrific conditions for factory employees, and raised questions about transparency in the global garment industry in which they work. However, four years later, a report on supply chain transparency released by Human Rights Watch finds only 17 of 72 apparel and footwear companies contacted by a coalition of labor and human rights groups and global unions have agreed to implement a transparency pledge by the end of this year.
The continued support of companies that utilize these inhumane working conditions through the consumer dollar, allows for such conditions to continue. Consumers have the ability to reject such practices such as these by refusing to support these companies through purchases. For these reasons, I will no longer link clothing from stores that perpetuate harmful working conditions.