Story of Stuff
Posted on 29 March 2016
“the assumptions that "pollution is the price of progress" or that "we must choose between jobs and the environment" have long limited our creative thinking about innovative solutions that can be good for the environment, the workers, and a healthy economy.”
- Annie Leonard
When you find that one great looking garment at a very good price, how do you feel? Most probably like the child that discovered a pirate’s treasure. But how many of us actually take a step back to think why any profit making company would sell something at that low a price?
One possible reason is end of season sales. But even during sales, a company isn’t necessarily selling the product at a loss. So how do we explain the low prices? The possible reason for this is the excessively low cost of production due to very low quality fabrics and/or low cost of labour. We must look at these in parts. First, low quality fabrics may look good but they are not healthy for the body to consume. Second, low cost of labor could only be explained by exploitation and employment of children in working units. An experienced adult job seeker would never agree to the low salaries that can otherwise be easily enforced on children below the age of fourteen.
It is time we shift towards more sustainable practices, both with regards to quality and labor, because it is necessary and doable. Fashion is a very powerful tool here because it has the power to draw people into a movement for change.
Unfortunately, the general perception is that fashion is only about connecting to cultural systems through their influence on design. This is why sustainability is reduced to a differentiating quality for the product and not its core. Communication around sustainability is therefore restricted to simple slogans on existing products with limited environmental or social qualities. It becomes about conveying the ‘sustainable’ attributes of a ‘greener’ product on a garment tag or billboard to a consumer who is ‘pre-ecological’ and has little sustainability awareness. This perpetuates a poverty of understanding as to how the fashion industry might be reimagined for a healthy economy.
Today we have an unprecedented amount of information at our disposal. Hence, we cannot justify our ignorance anymore.
In the following video, John Oliver poignantly shows us how deniability has been stitched into the supply chain of many large clothing companies.