Although awareness is being raised and our global habits are changing for good, there is still a lot of work to be done within the fashion industry to treat people and our planet fairly.
The fact is that most of the clothes, swimwear, and accessories that are produced today are made in violation of human rights. The main culprit? Fast fashion. Due to the demand from fast fashion labels to produce enormous amounts of clothing at a low cost, many garment workers around the world are exploited, harmed, and, in the case of Rana Plaza in 2013, killed.
While fast fashion isn’t the only culprit, it is the one causing the most harm.
What has any of this got to do with feminism? Well, the majority of garment workers exploited due to unethical practices are women. Labour Behind The Label estimates that about 80% of garment workers around the world are women aged between 18 and 35. These women often have no other choice than to work extreme hours to meet production demand and often earn less than a living wage. As the documentary The True Cost showed us, many of these women are also separated from their families to earn this income, which often still leaves them living in poverty.
Women all around our world are having their rights taken from them so fast fashion brands can sell enormous numbers of clothing at very affordable prices, and it's heartbreaking.
How is Ethical Manufacturing Different?
The good news is that smaller labels and conscious clothing brands are beginning to step up and advocate for the idea that the direction in which the fashion industry is headed simply isn’t acceptable. We should not, in any way, place our ‘wants’ above the rights of other women.
Brands who use ethical practices to manufacture their clothes will generally have their own code of compliance. This code will generally follow the practices associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 10 Principles of Fair Trade. According to these organisations, for a piece of clothing to be made ethically, it’s important that workers:
- Are paid a fair, living wage
- Work in safe conditions and within reasonable hours
- Are not forced into making the pieces
- Is not underage
- Do not experience discrimination, harassment, or abuse
It’s also important that the manufacturer and brand creating the pieces:
- Are transparent and open about their practices
- Provide opportunities for disadvantaged workers
- Respect community and cultural values
- Make steps to create a more positive impact on the environment
Together, not only will these ethical practices help protect our environment and all workers in the fashion industry, but they will also help the women who make our clothes live more freely, equally, and with more equity and respect.
What We All Can Do
While ensuring that the rights of women are met does fall on the brand and manufacturer, there is still a lot that we all can do to help the women who make our clothes, globally.
Firstly, we can stop buying from fashion brands who are known to exploit their workers and choose to support brands who make loved clothes to last with practices in place that empower their female workers.
We can also start asking the brands who are less transparent about their practices, ‘who made my clothes?’ and ‘are the women who made my clothes treated fairly, without harassment, abuse, or discrimination?’. There are so many ways to get in touch with brands, whether publicly through social media or through sending a simple email.
Finally, we can also speak up and talk about our concerns with our friends and communities. Through simply raising awareness, we can start the conversation and education needed to forge a movement and change the lives of women all around our world, for good.
We know that it will take more than ethical manufacturing in the fashion industry to bring about global equality and equity, but we believe that every small step will definitely help to empower makers all around the globe.
Much love from,