Two Ways to be Ethical: Part 1
In my last post I gave you a brief definition of ethical fashion. I hope that it gave you a taste of what we’re going to be discussing in this blog, but I know that I barely scratched the surface. This segment will dig deeper into the first of the main two factors of ethical fashion—the human factor.
Merchandise can be made ethically when workers are paid fairly and given safe conditions in which to work. However, this is not a common practice in the fashion industry right now. Currently, 97% of clothing is made outside of the United States. Many of these places like China, India, and Bangladesh do not have the strictly enforced labor laws that are common in the West.
For example, although workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh are legally allowed to form unions, it is common for employers to bully, harass, or fire workers that join unions. This is why only 10% of the country’s 4,500 garment factories had registered unions in 2016.
Additionally, the minimum wage in Bangladesh is a mere 32 cents an hour. To give you some perspective on that number, an apartment in the city of Dhaka costs an average of $152 per month to rent. A worker making 32 cents per hour would have to work for about 500 hours in a month just to cover the cost of rent. That’s almost 17 hours a day, 7 days a week just to pay for rent. This is one way that Forever 21 and other retailers like it can charge you $5.99 for a sweater and still make a profit.
Thankfully, many brands (and customers) are taking a stand against these large companies who have their products made in sweatshops for 32 cents an hour.
One of my personal favorite brands, Nisolo, has two factories in Peru and Mexico and independent partners in Peru and Kenya. They pay all 529 of their producers far above fair trade requirements and give them safe and clean working environments. As a result, they have created a valuable and sustainable brand with a less than 2% annual turnover rate. This is why Nisolo is a quintessential example of successfully incorporating the human factor into production.
Part two of this post will discuss the second factor of ethical fashion—the environmental impact. Check back in on Thursday, September 21st to learn about the environmental impact of the fashion industry and why it doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with the human factor.