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Ethical Fashion Vs Exploitative Fashion

Posted By : admin | March 7, 2015 | 2 comment(s)

With the introduction of the first full collection of The Eco Gypsy Ethical Beachwear for SS15 we will be dedicating a few blog posts to the subject and meet the people who produce our label.

 

Fast fashion has become as staple to todays society as mobile phones. You can barely catch the new couture collections before the fashion conglomerates roll out copies. Not only has this created a market of instant gratification for new fashions but a demand for increasingly lower prices. Originality is also slowly being compromised, as is craftsmanship as a homogeny takes over in the need to copy and produce as quickly as possible.

 

The dangers of fast fashion are becoming apparent and a global shift towards a more ethical way of looking at our wardrobes is necessary from both a humanitarian view and also from an environmental view. In 2013 on 24th April, Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1133 people and injuring 2500 people. Many of the large well known brands that produced within the Rana Plaza complex have not financially settled with the families or offered any assistance to those who can no longer work. Of the 29 brands that produced there only 9 offered compensation and signed agreements for better safety standards and pay. Benetton, Walmart, Carrefour and Auchan refused to sign up to the Donor Trust Fund.

 

This disaster was instrumental in opening the eyes of some to the global exploitation of people, especially women and children in the textile industry.

 

Facts About ‘Sweat Shops’ or Factories in the Developing World

 

  • One in eight children between 4 – 15 years old works in a sweatshop
  • Most workers are ‘retired’ by the age of 25 due to problems such as respiratory illness from the chemicals used in clothes.
  • 85% of workers are female and can be put on forced contraception to stop them falling pregnant.
  • Physical, verbal and sexual abuse are common in many factories.
  • Workers usually spend 75% of their wages on food alone and often make 25% less than they need to cover monthly expenses for accommodation, transport and education often forcing them to live in squalid conditions in the factories.
  • 250 million children work in sweatshops – 61% in Asia, 32% in Africa and 7% in Latin America.
  • Dirty and unhygienic working conditions that lead to disease and illness.
  • No healthcare insurance or assistance.
  • 22 million children die a year due to working conditions in sweatshops.
  • Cotton requires a third of a pound of pesticides and 60kg of water.
  • Manufacturing Nylon emits nitrous oxide gas that has a carbon footprint 310 times higher than carbon dioxide.
  • North Americans throw away over 30 kilogrammes of clothes a year.

 

Needless to say the cheaper the garment in a store in North America or Europe, the more likely that it has been produced under some sort of unethical working conditions. So what as a consumer can you do to help or prevent falling into the trap of perpetuating these practices?

 

Many big name and high street brands have made great inroads into producing more ethical clothing. H&M release their ‘couture’ Conscious Collection every year but carry their Conscious Collection throughout the year. This year Zara has introduced an organic cotton range and are also the owners of Mango who did sign up and compensate victims and their families of the Rana Plaza disaster. It is getting easier to shop ethically as awareness spreads so with a little research you can make better fashion consumer choices.

 

Simply do some homework and check the standards of some of the brands you shop. For example Nike has fallen under heavy criticism in Indonesia for their appalling working conditions with 75% of the workforce quitting over conditions in the 00’s, when it was exposed they were paying workers $1.25 a day under appalling conditions. With 1.8% of their advertising budget they could have easily doubled the wage of all their workers. This was extraordinary exploitation even within Indonesia and although they claim greater transparency now, many complaints persist.

 

Indonesia is a prime place for exploitation and what amounts to modern day slavery. With the fourth biggest population in the world of over 250 million people spread over the largest archipelago, poverty is widespread. The most heavily populated island of Java has massive slum communities in its city with the largest being Jakarta. A large percentage of its inhabitants live on less that US$1 a day so any work, even exploitative can be a constant source of income for the poorest families and there are many willing to take advantage of this.

 

In 2014 we established our ethical beachwear brand that compliments our ethos and eco escapes. Here are some of the steps we take in Bali, Indonesia.

 

The Eco Gypsy Ethical Beachwear Measures:

 

  • Fair Wage -we pay over the average price per piece of clothing or accessories made. We believe this level of skill from our artisans should be rewarded and the cost passed on to our customers.
  • We regularly check that our artisans and seamstresses are working in hygienic, ventilated and cooled premises with access to toilet facilities and a plentiful supply of water and nutrition.
  • No chemical dyes or processes are used for our materials.
  • Our Collection is handmade so no heavy use of energy sources.
  • No children are employed, 16 is our minimum working age.
  • Regular breaks and paid over time if the worker chooses to work a few extra hours.
  • No animals are harmed, the shells are collected from beaches and the feathers are not plucked from live animals.
  • Limited numbers of pieces. We do not do large production and make to order so there is no waste or excess stock.
  • Personal connection – Founder Electra visits the workers and all people who produce for The Eco Gypsy herself. It is not left up to second parties to check standards are maintained.
  • Regular donations of clothing, food or small monetary gifts during significant holidays to show our appreciation and give a little extra to families.

 

In the next few blogs we will be introducing you to some of the artisans in Indonesia and also show the incredible work they do. We are constantly striving to improve and become more conscious, responsible and caring within The Eco Gypsy.

 

Sources: End Modern Slavery (www.endmodernslavery.ca), Fashion Revolution (www.fashionrevolution.org), Clean Clothes Campaign (www.cleanclothes.org) , Global Ethics Network (www.globalethicsnetwork.org) & Well Dressed Cambridge University Report (http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/resources/sustainability/well-dressed/)

 

An Industrial Indonesian Factory

An Industrial Indonesian Factory

2 Comments

03.07.15

Thank you for writing this. This is the type of blog people should be reading. It would be great to see your thoughts on acculturation as well. When luxury designers utilize “inspiration” from so many cultures and people without or with little ethical reciprocation. Several popular jewelry brands seem to source their items from countries like Turkey and Afghanistan and charge a very high price but as a consumer you have no idea what conditions these pieces are made under nor if some middle business savvy Owner is making a great living off the back and creativity of others. Thank you again for writing this.

03.07.15

Thank you Amanda to take the time to comment and we will be writing more about our accessories we make in Indonesia and our artisans who we ensure fair wage and good working conditions for. Transparency is key when making consumer choices so best to try find out if your fashion choices are non exploitative.
Acculturation is a difficult one as people will always be inspired by travel, tribes etc like I am. We are famous for our ankle cuffs, not a usual form of accessory for some, but being half Indian totally normal for me seeing ankle adornment in Asia. Wearing and producing items from another culture can either be a hindrance or a help. However that is a feature in itself!!

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