For the past few years the fashion industry have changed completely, especially since the arrival of the fast fashion business module.
I am sure you have all bought clothes from fast fashion brands, maybe even without realizing it.
What is fast fashion? Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at the Fashion Weeks. Companies using this model, release collections very frequently and their items are significantly cheaper than the traditional clothing stores.
The innovative practices of this business model are increasingly adopted by fashion retailers who try to release collections more frequently and at affordable prices. The business model has brought significant benefits to fashion retailers who have experienced rises in their profits, and to consumers who are able to shop fashionable styles more affordable. However, it has also increased the level of workers’ rights violation and exploitation in the clothing industry!
We live in a world where we often take things for granted, and we don´t always put much thought into why things are the way they are. With the emergence of fast fashion, we are able to shop at a more affordable price which allows us to have 50 pairs of trousers instead of 5. This way we can all be more fashionable and care less about how to manage our clothing budget! Most of us, however, never think of why are the prices more affordable now, than they were 20 years ago.
Many would say it is due to the transnational business available nowadays and the various industrial developments. The ugly truth, however, is that these unprecedented low prices are actually due to the increased workers´ exploitation in the clothing industry!
The unfairness in this industry and the ´blind eye ´played by companies, customers and the society is what made me base my masters’ dissertation on the exploitation in the clothing industry. The topic I chose to research was:
Has the Fast Fashion Business Model Increased the Level of Workers’ Rights Violation and Exploitation in the Clothing Industry in Bangladesh and Romania?
By choosing these two countries as case studies I wanted to demonstrate the severe levels of exploitation in the clothing industry nowadays and to show that the working conditions are seriously violated not only in developing countries, as many would think, but also in states that are part of the European Union.
Even though Romania is part of the EU and is expected to have strict labor regulations, both states (Romania and Bangladesh) experience similar workers’ rights violations and increased exploitation, caused by the fast fashion business model.
This is due to the constant search of fashion retailers for cheaper labor, which has led to unprecedented competition between the production countries. Due to the increased competition, the governments in Romania and Bangladesh are increasingly interested in maintaining their prices attractive to the fashion retailers and thus, their minimum wages have little correlation to the cost of living. As a result, the majority of apparel workers receive a wage significantly under the minimum living wage. According to Romanian apparel workers, the wages they receive can only cover 40% of their family’s food costs, which makes it impossible for them to make ends meet without working overtime hours or having a second job. The unprecedentedly low salaries are ofcourse only small portion of the workers´rights violations experienced in the clothing industry.
It is extremely sad that all these violations are being ignored, which is why I am very happy when I see projects trying to change the horrible reality in the clothing manufacturing industry.
Tremenda is one of these projects! It aims to develop and manufacture under equitable working conditions a range of exclusive women’s clothing , underwear, accessories and shoes. By doing so, it wishes to demonstrate that it is possible to create clothes that appeal to fashion trends and still remain at affordable prices, without participating in the process of labor injustice.
Even if the harsh situation of textile workers seem to be irreversible and lost, every initiative can make a significant change. That is what we as a society and consumers should always remember.
The first step to a change is awareness! Please spread the word, so we can all be aware of the extreme violations of workers rights in the clothing industry.
The next step would be to act as consumers and to avoid buying apparel that is not produced under fair working conditions!
Tina J xx