Some while ago I came across an article about how some Norwegian youngsters went to Cambodia for one month to work in a garment factory, as part of a reality show to expose how the clothes that we wear daily and happily buy on sales are manufactured. The focus was on the rough conditions that the Norwegians experienced there, although it is believed that the factory where they were working was offering far better benefits to their workers compared to the great majority of factories in the garment sector, based in Asia. That is, if you consider getting paid with 3 $ for a 8-hours working day a benefit. And which are the brands that have their products manufactured in Asia, in these poor conditions? Well, almost all famous brands that pop into ones mind. Needless to say that the 3 Norwegians were completely shocked by the inhuman working conditions and the general poverty of the area and the families working in this field.
Today I came across a well-documented report of the garment industry in Romania and Bulgaria, the eastern countries of the European Union. To my surprise, the journalist presents how working conditions in Romania, in garment factories in the south of the country, are exactly like those of Asian workers. Abuses concerning the payment (if any), lunch or toilet breaks, ‘benefits’ (milk for the workers that deal with highly toxic materials), working conditions (temperature in the production hall, permission to go to the toilet, cease of work in case of sickness) are all there. Why are people still working in these places? Because they have no alternative, because they were working in other places, quit their job and came in the new factory, hoping to find a better working place with better working conditions. The general atmosphere in this factories is one of fear, fear of tomorrow, fear of not receiving the monthly salary, fear of the supervisor, fear of not being fired, fear of speaking up. International auditors and national or regional public authorities haven’t managed to change much over time.
Guilt can be placed on many, but what about us, the consumers? None of these brands would survive or gather fabulous incomes if it would not be for the consumers that make the choice of buying their products over and over again.
I read once that there is no such a thing as seasons in fashion anymore. The push for high sales has changed the fashion industry into new products being displayed on a monthly basis on the shelves, versus the 4 seasons, as some years ago. This has led to an increasing demand in manufacturing facilities, cheap labor, poor materials, low quality final products and massive rush to deliver the new items as fast as possible, no matter what. In other words, the clothes have become as disposable as the plastic shopping bags they come packaged into. And as toxic. From the materials used (mainly plastic in different forms) to the way they are manufactured and sold.
How different this industry would be if the garment corporations would change their ‘cut costs and increase sales’ policy to ‘respect your costumer by delivering life-time quality in ethically manufactured products’?
Which are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear how you deal with the fashion challenge of nowadays 🙂[icon name=”fa-heart” size=”mini” style=”simple” icon_color=”#57c5c7″][/icon], Ioana