How does the fashion industry effect the factory/production workers in third world countries?
We currently live in a society that is extremely focused on materialistic items and where everyone is constantly trying to improve their image. A key materialistic item that allows society to change their image is fashion. Fashion brands are producing new lines of cheap clothing so frequently that society ends up disposing clothes every 5-6 weeks in order to keep up with the latest trends. This current time is often referred to as ‘fast fashion’. Although society views fast fashion as a positive, many people do not realise the circumstances it has on the production workers in developing countries. Anguelov explains that in order to keep prices low for the consumer, clothing manufacturers strive to keep their production costs low. (Anguelov 2). This means workers in developing countries receive a deduction in pay and an increase in working hours. These workers are not receiving fair and equal human rights.
The majority of production workers live in developing countries, therefore, they are already struggling to survive and live comfortably, without the addition of extreme working hours with very little pay. Not to mention, 90% of production workers are female, who are often single mothers with young children to care for. The clothing production factories in developing countries are often not safe as they are unstable and poorly constructed, due to lack of available funds. No-one deserves to work in an environment where they do not feel safe or looked after. An example where poor construction of factories has had a negative effect on production workers is the Rana Plaza tragedy. On April 24th, 2013, the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing at least 1,138 workers, the majority of whom were women. Rana Plaza was an eight story high clothing production factory that produced clothing for Western retailers. The Clean Clothes Campaign described the Rana Plaza and other similar clothing factories as ‘’deathtrap workplaces’’. The conditions that these production workers work in for long hours every day is appalling and unfair. If clothing brands were to increase their prices and society was to buy clothing less frequently (pay more, buy less), there could be hope for the production workers in developing countries.
A campaign named Fashion Revolution, conducted a social experiment to inform the public about the poor conditions that clothing production workers are situated in, and the lack of human rights they receive. This experiment was called, The 2 Euro T-Shirt. A vending machine selling 2 Euro plain white t-shirts was situated in the middle of a busy area in Berlin. The idea behind this vending machine was to see how many people would still go through with their purchase after being informed about the conditions in which the t-shirts were produced. This experiment was a form of visual activism as it announced the negative effects that the fashion industry was having on its production workers in developing countries through a visual form. The visual form was the physical vending machine and the informative video clip that played on the screen. The results from this social experiment showed that 8 out of 10 shopper’s cancelled their purchase after being informed of the poor working conditions and treatment of workers. Therefore, if fashion brands were to bring their production workers to the foreground of their campaigns, the consumers may reconsider how much they’re buying or how much they’re paying, which could benefit the working conditions and pay for production workers in developing countries.
Anguelov, Nikolay. The Dirty Side Of The Garment Industry. [Electronic Resource] : Fast Fashion And Its Negative Impact On Environment And Society. n.p.: Boca Raton : CRC Press, , 2016. Massey University Library Catalogue. Web. 15 May 2016.
‘’Rana Plaza’’. Article. Clean Clothes Campaign. N.d. Web. 22 May 2016.
‘’Tears in the Fabric’’. Video. Rainbow Collective – Documentary Production. Youtube. 26 Apr 2014. Web. 22 May 2016.
‘’The 2 Euro T-Shirt – A Social Experiment’’. Video. Fashion Revolution. Youtube. 23 Apr 2015. Web. 22 May 2016.
Fig.1. Rohat Ali Rajib. Relatives of Rana Plaza victims hold photos of their loved ones. 24 Apr 2015. Photograph. European Parliament News.