The other day, I ended up going to Vasco de Gama shopping centre; for those who live in Lisbon know how vast this shopping complex is. Inside, it is a one stop, shop all experience. Personally, I’m not a fan of such shopping experiences; since I was there I thought I would check out some of the stores. Perhaps, due to sale season, I came across clothes scattered all over the place; clothes on the floor, clothes inside out on the display tables, clothes half hanging from the hangers. Taking a closer look at the garments, some were marked to prices as low as €5, with horrific low quality material and cheap finishing’s. It was as if the clothes had no actual value!
Today, with increased social media influence and the pressure to compete our ‘amazing’ lifestyle with each other, has led consumers to buy cheaper alternatives; to wear it once, maybe a few more times and then throw it away. There are so many things wrong with this throwaway fashion mentality. Firstly, we should be encouraged to buy quality products, possibly at a slight higher price with a longer life expectancy. With the likelihood of the products lasting longer we can style our clothes in so many ways. Ultimately, when you think that you have no use of your clothes, do not throw them away. There are so many other sustainable options in how you handle your unwanted clothes; recycle, donate to charities or second hand shops, or even re-customise. I understand that we are always looking for cheaper alternatives, to spend a little here and save up for something else. But we need to consider the journey these clothes have gone through; were the people making these clothes working under ethical human rights conditions or were they exploited?
In the news recently there has been Bangladeshi garment workers protesting for increased wages in order to sustain living conditions. Have you heard about this? Well this specific issue initiated on the 23rd of December 2016, where garment workers were protesting for their rights. At least 11 garment union leaders and activists have been arrested, over 1,600 workers fired, police case filed against 600 workers and trade unions, with many more hiding due to fear of safety. This is a current issue, these union leaders are still arrested, and those fired will find difficulties in gaining employment around Dhaka. Consequently, this comes down to rely on those of power, often corrupt, and have no concern for people’s rights. The Bangladesh garment industry supply for a large number of western fashion brands, such as Gap, Zara and H&M. Even more pressing, just a few weeks ago, an undercover documentary was released in the United Kingdom, showcasing garment workers in Leicestershire earning as little as £3 per hour! This shows that workers are not just exploited in developing countries such as Bangladesh, but also in developed countries like United Kingdom.
Now, more than ever we need to be aware of the difficult conditions garment workers go through in order to meet consumer demand for frequent new products. We need to ensure workers in the fashion supply chain are working under legal human right conditions and are not exploited. Likewise, it is essential that we become conscious consumers, demanding for a transparent and sustainable fashion industry and ask #whomademyclothes.