Fashion identifies us, it represents us, it’s an open door for us to express who we are and what we want to tell. The clothes we wear or the accessories we choose allow us to play with creativity and entertainment.
In the course of decades, fashion has been adapted to the historical, political and social context by collecting demands from people who worn it and helping to create new identities.
However, nowadays, when we interact with the world of fashion we usually do it under the premise of buying low cost in order to get the largest number of garments or with the intention to renew them many times.
The fast consumption model in which we are involved has serious consequences for the environment and results in huge inequalities between Eastern and Western people.
The fashion industry is the second world’s most polluting industry. In addition to toxics released in the sea, the microplastics that constitute this material are a threat for biodiversity and for human being’s health.
China became the world’s biggest exporter of textiles in 1995, and since then it has kept this position. At the same time, we know that 70% of their rivers, lakes and reserves are touched by pollution, largely because of the practices carried out around the fashion industry.
Nevertheless, our consumption model is bound to a specific production model that has a very negative impact on the earth. The goods that we but or the brands in which we decide to invest our money are a choice made by us, but we often don’t know the real cost of the clothes we wear.
Big brands, even many of them that were founded in Spain once, subcontract factories placed in developing countries for most of their production. By reducing costs, prices are also reduced and, at the same time, good’s rotation also grows. This way, we’ve got used to choose a new coat design every year or several pair of shoes for each season.
The textile industry moves about 3,000 billion dollar every year. These big brands compete for the lowest price, therefore for the lowest costs, and a bigger level of labor exploitation in disadvantaged countries. And this way, big fashion empires speculate not only on goods value, but also on people value.
Countries like Cambodia increased their world exportations around 6,480 million dollars (in 2013), from which 76% correspond to textile goods. This shows us the growing trend of international companies towards relocate labor to get it in impoverished countries.
Nowadays, it is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the world works at any point of the global fashion industry, so it is the sector the most labor-dependent on earth. Most of people who work in these factories are women, and their salaries doesn’t even reach 2€ per day. Obviously, there’s no work reconciliation at all, and many of them have to take their children with them and, therefore, they are forced to put them in danger too.
If we stop and think a little beyond of the origin of our clothes, we’ll find big injustices and suffering caused by these big companies. Some year ago, an event jump to the headlines, it was the collapse of a factory in the suburbs of Dacca, Bangladesh, the 24th April 2013. More than a thousand people who worked for international brands died. Workers had already warned that the building had cracks and its structure was dangerous, but they were still forced to go to work. That was not the first nor the last catastrophe caused by the textile industry, but it was a clear example of how the real cost of the fashion we consume is ignored.
How is it possible that with the profits these brands make, they aren’t able to guarantee minimum conditions of security and dignity to their workers? How is it possible that human rights are violated only in the name of capital?
Is this the only way to be profitable producing in fashion industry?
The answer is no. There are alternatives and we must demand them and look after them equally. We need to demand brands to be responsible with the environment and with the people who work there.
There’s always an alternative and there’s always a way of working without being careless of the value of what matters the most. It is our right as consumers to have these options in the market, to choose fashion that is not stained with slavery. It is also our duty to appreciate them and be able to quit the abusive consumption model that we have also been part of.
It is our responsibility with the planet to reduce the use of disposable products in a moment when the world is screaming for a change in the consumption model. And fashion should never be considered as a disposable product.
It is our job as consumers to understand that we are part of the problem, but also part of the solution. Only when we understand this, only when we choose the most responsible option and only when we decide to change our life style, we will be building a world that we really want to live in.
Finally, as a final recap, I would like us to think about these numbers:
- Fashion industry is world’s second most polluting industry.
- The US generates around 11 million tons of textile waste per year.
- 8% of the world's greenhouse gases come from this industry.
- The production of polyester, present in 60% of all the garments in the market, means the discharge of approximately 70 million of oil barrels per year.
- 70% of China’s rivers, lakes and reserves are polluted as result of its textile factories.
- In Southern India, around 250 000 girls are working under the Sumangali system.
- According the WHO, 90% of the children who work in the leather industry in Bangladesh will die before the age of 50 due to exposure and contact with chemical products of all kinds.
- 1 in every 6 people in the world work in the fashion industry, and most of those who work in factories don’t make 2€ per day.
- A report made from the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations showed that in India, girls and teenagers work without a contract for more than 72 hours per week, with a daily salary of 0,88€.
- 24.9 million people in the world are victim of forced labor and, of that number, it is estimated that more than 16 million are exploited by multinational textile companies.