Day three in the Fashion Revolution House and I’m flogging a seriously delicious dusty green dress by Ghost to the highest bidder, donating 20% to Fashion Revolution.
THE FASHION REVOLUTION
Fashion Revolution is all about opening our eyes to the true cost of fashion.
Today, I want to take my mindfulness behind the scenes of the $3 TRILLION industry and focus on dirty cash – the price we pay for stuff, whose pockets are full and whose are left empty.
Working in Global Sourcing for an multi-brand retailer, I’ve got access all areas…
The fact that 1% of the global population earns 96% of wealth is a stat I can’t get out of my skull lately. It’s like having John Brower Minnoch (the world’s heaviest human) and a newborn baby play on a see-saw.
You could argue that this is because the vast majority live in developing countries where the cost of living is much lower, but actually if you dig around a bit you’ll quickly soon unearth that a lot of people are just not earning enough to survive.
Unfair pay is a major problem in the fashion industry and I hear all the horror stories.
It’s not uncommon for factory workers to be held as slaves, their passports locked away until they’ve finished their contracts, one foot out of line and they’re charged extortionate fees that would take years of overtime to repay.
All of this on top of a below living wage salary, most of which will be sent to parents in villages far away, leaving the workers with literally pennies to live on.
We sometimes see glimpses of them, but most of the time we forget they’re even there. Luxury for them comes in the form of a basic need – a wash, a piece of fruit, a sachet of shampoo because they can’t afford a whole bottle. Simple stuff.
We’re often so geographically distanced from this reality that we can’t see it or choose to ignore it.
I’ve visited a lot of factories over the last ten years, some pretty impressive and some on the other end of the spectrum. There was one factory in India, a rickety old building in the middle of a bustling village near Tiruppur.
It was four or five stories high, crammed with silent people-bots staring down at their task. The loud clattering of the sewing machines stitching in unison was enough to deafen. It was almost forty-five degrees outside, like a furnace indoors, and all they had keeping them cool was a few tiny box fans at each end of the room.
No matter which factory I walked into, the workers stared. And the question that swirled around in my head as I looked at them and smiled was – are you happy?
THE TRUE COST
For anybody not working in this world, the easiest way to get a bit closer to it all is to simply take an interest.
Clothes are ubiquitous and so regardless if you’re in the fast fashion flock or totally anti-trend, we’re all involved. Read up. Fashion Revolution’s Worker Diaries is a good place to start, putting names and faces to the problem will make it feel a whole lot more real.
Then look down. Think about how much what you’re wearing cost to buy at full retail price.
Take off 50% retailer margin, then another 50% brand margin and you’re left with the likely landed cost of goods.
Whatever’s left was used to cover the costs raw materials and all the processes it takes to get them prepped – picking, weaving, knitting, washing, bleaching, dying, printing – then the cutting, the sewing, the ticketing, the packaging, the shipment, storage and distribution to the shop you bought it from.
Don’t forget these steps do not take place under one roof, there are various different factories, sometimes in different countries, so add on the cost of transport, their overheads for electricity, water, lighting and then last but not least, wages.
Now I haven’t had an aptitude for maths since my GCSEs, but something doesn’t add up. And if you don’t believe me, there’s a really good article by Sole Review that goes into a lot more detail.
I could ramble forever on the subject but I’ll close with a rip-off of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and a link to my beauty-full dress