Sorry for the delay in this post but I had an unexpected interview to prepare for, that also meant I had to travel to another country.
In Part.1 I spoke a little about what fast fashion was, who used this practice and how we fall victim to it. In Pt.2 I’m going to talk a little about how fast fashion effects people other than the consumers, like the countries that manufacture these garments and in particular the men, women and children that manufacture these garments. When it comes to fast fashion, cheap is best. To begin with no one really cared about the quality as long as they were getting cheap clothes. So retailers had to find ways in order to produce cheap clothing. And one of the key things was changing the manufacturing process and as a result they moved production to a different country altogether. Countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Cambodia have all become hotspots for clothing manufacture, because at the end of the day they have cheap labour.
But cheap labour is a big problem for the people who are doing the work, they don’t get paid enough for the work they do. Lucy Siegle’s ‘To Die For’ book focuses in on Bangladesh. Bangladesh is one of the biggest garment manufacturing countries in the world. Lucy Siegle comments that one and a half billion pairs of jeans and other cotton trousers are sewn in Bangladesh every year And there is estimated to be over forty million garment workers around the world producing garments for buyers and designers in western countries. Siegle calls them the ‘Cut-Make-and-Trim Army’. In a lot of these countries and particularly in Bangladesh ‘working conditions are typically very poor and often dangerous’ (Siegle, p.41). These conditions often bring the term ‘sweatshop’ with it. A sweatshop in its original terms meant a system that outsourced or subcontracted labour. Now though you can also add long hours, unsafe working conditions, low pay and where workers are not permitted to join unions or form an organisation into the definition.
Another big problem that arises with sweatshops is child labour. But keep in mind that not every sweatshop uses child labour and it can also depend on the country too. Sweatshops use children as they have small fingers, they will not resist violence or intimidation easily and in some instances are bought from desperate parents in rural areas. This is emotional topic for us here on the western side of the world as we hope to see children going to school and playing with there friends. But this is not the case for a lot of children. It was also brought to my attention in a Production Management lecture that what if its customary for children to work young in these countries. What if in certain areas there is no schools because parents simply can’t afford it, and then a western company comes in and tells the factory there is to be no children working for them. This could cause an outcry in local community. So as the western company what do you do? Do upset the locals and as a consequence you may have no workforce or do you upset the people in your home country and as consequence sell no product?
So that was part two. In part 3 I’m going to look at what retailers can do to check up on these factories to make sure they follow the rules, and see if any retailers are improving the working environment. Hope you enjoyed it, feel free to ask any questions or leave a comment, or you can find me on social media.