After a gripping conversation with my sister on a Sunday afternoon which made me reflect on the subject for the rest of the day, I decided to put it out for people like me, who are oblivious to the fashion industry that has unfailingly allured us this whole time.
Lately, with the incoming of global brands to our country and the dramatic increase of fashion production over the past decade, the industry has consumed a sizeable interest of youth who are willing to stand in a queue to get their hands on the low-priced snazzy wardrobe. We are buying more and more clothes at relatively cheaper prices. But are we even slightly familiar with behind-the-scenes of garment-making and how the decreasing prices have real implications?
For that, let me tell you an unfortunate narrative as recalled by Rupali, a survivor of Rana Plaza accident.
They had only worked for a short while, when Rupali, who worked as a machinist on the sixth floor of the Rana Plaza building felt that the floor beneath her feet started to sink. Everything was rumbling, and eventually she fell. The next thing she remembers is that there were two bodies lying right next to her. She realised that there were living people nearby, yet she couldn’t see a thing. 15 hours later, she was saved from the ruins.
On 24th April 2013, in the Dhaka district of Bangladesh, an eight-storey commercial building named Rana Plaza collapsed due to structural failure. With a death toll of 1,134, the disaster is considered the deadliest garment-factory accident in the history. The list of causes could be syncopated to construction not conforming to the building laws and regulations. But the most dismaying revelation was this-
In spite of the warnings to avoid using the building after the cracks had appeared the day before, the managers ordered the the garment workers to return the following day and threatened to withhold a month’s pay who refused to come to work. The building collapsed during the rush hour.
The garment factories, an illegitimate use of the structure that was potentially weak to house the heavy machinery, manufactured apparel for brands including Benetton, Mango, Bonmarche, Accessorize, Walmart, Primark and the same brands we gloat over but choose to remain ignorant of their inside story.
Now, picture yourself working in a dingy hall with unbearable heat and slim ventilation for long working hours with just one toilet break, that too, after an unceasing scolding from the barbaric bosses only to receive untimely wages and no paid leaves. Also, the customary physical abuse. That sums up the working conditions of a majority of production houses of global brands around the world with no reforms even after the accident.
The accident highlighted a fashion industry which has turned a blind eye to the workers who are responsible for the success of celebrated brands and labels. The factory safety norms were outrightly questioned and as a response, Fashion Revolution was born. It is a non-profit movement, which campaigns across the globe for systemic reforms and a need for a greater transparency in the industry. It questions the puzzling reality that despite the higher cost of making clothes, the price we pay for our clothing is cheaper than ever before. For instance, how much share of your branded $20 T-shirt is attributed to the factory workers, considering the fabric, trims, cuttings, overhead, sales commission, manufacturer’s profit & transportation?
Most of us would question that how can we keep a check on everything that we wear, since, that demands a lot of time. And I can’t agree more. We are buried in countless tasks and to figure out the way our clothes are sourced, produced or consumed, would be the last thing on our mind. But as buyers and makers of fashion, it is entirely up to us to take this responsibility because we care about only a certain specific things that affect us directly and sideline the ones that don’t.
I would still suggest you to give it a thought.