The speed at which fashion is produced sped up significantly in the industrial revolution, seeing a fall in the price of clothing and a rise in the rate of manufacturing. The 1900’s to the 1950’s led to a great increase in the number of the garment factories which itself came with it’s own challenges and tragedies. In 1911 the infamous Triangle shirtwaist factory fire of New York occurred, killing 146 workers many of whom were immigrants.
Following the boom of the fashion industry in the 1960’s, textile mills began opening across the developing world to accommodate the demands of fast fashion chains and keep their costs low with outsourced cheaper labor Nowadays, more than 60% of the world’s clothing is made in developing countries.
“Asia is the major clothing exporter today, producing more than 32 percent of the world’s supply. China is the leading world producer and supplier of clothing, providing nearly 13 percent of the world’s exports.” (EcoWatch, 2016).
However, as labor costs increase in China and workers persist for higher wages, companies look to other areas for production.
“Companies have responded by moving production into places where wages are even lower, like Bangladesh” (Zarroli, 2013). Other countries including India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Turkey are now amongst the most popular locations for fast fashion clothing and accessories brands.
A study carried out by the International Labor Organization uncovered that the majority of the exports detailed below were directly for or linked to the garment industry:
In 2015, the International Labor Office published research in regard to the working conditions of garment workers across India. The document highlighted the working conditions, employment status and perceptions. Areas they honed in on identify some of the challenges these workers face
– One in 5 work 7 days a week
– Over a quarter work more than 8 hours on a regular basis
– Overtime is regular and often involuntary
– Two-thirds of the workers said they cannot afford to refuse the extra work, yet sometimes it was unpaid.
– Penalties for not doing overtime or meeting production targets were a regular occurrence.
– Verbal abuse and threats were more prevalent than physical beatings and abuse, but also present.
– Most say they were not entitled to annual leave, and fear if they did take it that they would lose their jobs.
– Sexual violence and harassment is reported by one in 10, in which one in 5 are women.
It was also founded that India accounts for 3.7% of the global market share for apparels. Holding the 6th position worldwide in 2013 and generating $40 Billion (2013/2014) in their value of garment and textile exports. In 2014, Asia accounted for 59.5% ($601.1 Billion) of the global markets exports of garments, textiles and footwear . The textile and clothing industries account for portions of the countries exports were:
War on Want (an organization working in partnership with progressive movements and organizations for global justice) found that from 1990 to present, thousands of workers have been injured and wounded in 50 major factory fires across Bangladesh, with 400 workers having lost their lives. The collapse of the Rana Plaza made international news and so, consumers became more aware of where they fast fashion was originating from.
So, what can we do?
It’s time to ask our favourite brands some questions. There’s a person behind each and every item we buy and they have Human Rights – Rights that according to these reports are often not met.
Join the movement of Who Made My Clothes. This movement encourages consumers to ask brands who made their clothing. The campaign encourages transparency and insists fashion shouldn’t come at the cost of people or the planet. Check out Fashion Revolution to see how you can get involved.