The Perils of Fast Fashion
Posted on 04 June 2021
Head to any marketplace in India and you will likely find a tailor sitting at an old-fashioned sewing machine, with his creations on hangers around him waiting to be collected. This is a commonplace scene in most towns, villages, and cities. Taking garments to the tailor for alterations, or bringing fabric with clear instructions of the desired outfit are part of daily life for many. Some may even be fortunate enough to have sufficient funds to gain them access to fancy designers and showrooms. However, this type of small-scale tailoring is only one side of the story when it comes to garment production.
Dotted all over the subcontinent are factories and mills of varying operational scales where garments are churned out in their thousands, often for export to other countries. These factories, frequently referred to as 'sweatshops' are manned by armies of workers, often in poorly ventilated or unsanitary conditions. Within these factories, garment workers can fill a number of different roles, from cutting, to stitching, to embroidery, and packaging. The hours are long and the remuneration poor.
Contracts from overseas often put pressure on factory owners, demanding lower and lower prices per unit in order to sell at competitive prices in the shops. This leaves factory owners in a difficult position, the profit margins are negligible, yet they are not in a position to refuse business. In turn, the factory owners are often hesitant to improve the quality of the worker's environment, or to increase their pay, due to financial constraints. To keep costs to a minimum, many factory owners compromise on the quality of the materials used. This can often mean that chemical dyes and synthetic fabrics are used, often without sufficient waste management systems in place to handle the byproducts.
All of this leads to cheap, affordable clothing - what we might call disposable fashion or fast fashion, but it all comes at a cost - to the environment, and to the workers.
However, all is not lost! The movement towards sustainable fashion and conscious consumerism is gathering pace. Awareness of the issues and malpractices within the garment production industry are spreading and consumers are becoming more selective when shopping. Seeking out garments that support the craft of artisans, are made from sustainably processed fabric, or seeking out ethically & environmentally sound brands that champion zero waste and fairtrade are just some of the steps we can take towards ensuring a cleaner, healthier, and fairer planet.
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