When we know the people who are behind our clothes, we feel empowered to invest in better clothing. Keep reading to discover about the people who make your clothes and where you can get started to support their wellbeing […]
75 million people are working to manufacture our clothes and 80% of them are women between the age of 18 and 24. Buying clothes has become such a frequent activity that we don’t put much thought into — in fact we could definitely know more about the women who make our clothes. When if not on 8th March for Women’s day?
If you start to think about it, it would be fair if we could take more interest in knowing more about who makes our clothes and under what conditions. We need to know what we’re buying into. Lack of transparency in the industry means that there is no light into making sure that people who make our clothes can afford life’s basic necessities and comfort.
Living vs minimum wage
A best practice in the fashion industry would mean giving a living wage to workers. This means that their salary allows them to satisfy their essential needs. A living wage must cover the cost of food, housing and other necessary expenses such as healthcare and clothing.
The legal minimum wage in some countries where manufacturing happens is lower than that: in Bangladesh for example, the monthly minimum wage is 49.56 euros, only 18% of a living wage, in Indonesia it’s 82.14 euros, 31% of a living wage and in Cambodia it’s 72.64, 25% of a living wage (clean clothes campaign). This happens because governments fear that setting higher minimum wages would damage the domestic industry’s ability to compete in the global market.
Credit: Francois Le Nguyen
Cheap, but at what cost?
Pricing garments so little has become a claim to democratise fashion, unfortunately this has led many of us to unnecessary overconsumption. Clothes are becoming cheaper and cheaper, but the cost of manufacturing isn’t decreasing, it’s just borne by someone else. Especially this year, with retail stores shutting due to the pandemic, some businesses have decided not to pay garment workers for the clothes that they had made, or were making, as they couldn’t sell them. Thanks to the Remake Our World’s payup campaign, some brands did the right thing and paid their workers after the petition gained traction and received a lot of signatures.
This shows the impact that such a simple action can have!
We can ask the industry to take responsibility for the people who make their clothes and signing the pay-up petition is a great place to start.
Credits: Rio Lecatompessy
So, how can you care about the women making your clothes?
We vote with our shopping decisions but we’re also citizens and as such we must use our voices and voting power to demand change in the industry.
Our shopping choices also have an impact, I personally like to take part in active boycotts, where I no longer shop at fast fashion brands while telling them why, be it through social media, emails or petitions. I believe shopping less but better is a good starting point, but it’s even more powerful to engage with brands telling them what they need to do differently, and hopefully governments will then step in too.
P.S. You’ve probably seen ‘feminist shirts’ sold in stores — make sure to ask the question of: “was this made ethically?”.