We shouldn’t be able to afford buying clothes the way many of us do now. Most of us should actually almost have to make them ourselves. As Frida said in the Norwegian series “Sweatshop“: We are rich because they are poor.
The only reason why we can afford to buy so much stuff is because other people in other parts of the world are paid near nothing to make the things for us. Think about it. It’s not that long ago that a lot of people made clothes at home to save money. That’s not the case anymore. Nowadays it usually costs more to make clothes than to buy them. That is not because we have so much more money, it’s because the production has been moved to other countries with extremely low wages.
I think it is essential that we realise what clothes actually should cost if everyone involved in making them were paid fairly. When we do that we can adjust our expectations and completely re-think our shopping habits. We can redefine what we “need”, because we really don’t need as much as we think.
I am angry that it is legal to import and sell clothes that are made under working conditions that are illegal in the country they are imported and sold in. To me that is just completely illogical, irrational and obviously immoral. If a company can’t make a profit following local laws, they can just move production abroad and import it! It makes no sense and there should be laws against it!
When we accept that the goods we buy are made by people on starvation wages we are basically saying that they are of less worth than us. We think it’s more important that we can afford to buy many pretty and convenient things than it is for a textile worker in another country to be able to feed her family. When we think clothes should be as cheap as they are now we put our vanity ahead of other peoples health and wellbeing. Even if you haven’t thought about it this way before, let me tell you that accepting the working conditions for many textile workers is essentially racist.
If you think that you would be OK working under similar conditions, that’s fine, you might need to work on your sense of self worth and self esteem a bit, but at least you’re not racist. If, on the other hand, you think that you deserve better working conditions than those of the average textile worker, then, if you think people are of equal worth, it should follow that they should have better working conditions as well. Their time and their families matter just as much as ours. If that means that clothes get more expensive, then so be it! It would actually be great as it would help us massively reduce our consumption as we would purchase fewer items of higher quality and take better care of the things we had. Paying fair wages in the fashion industry is a win win the way I see it. People and nature win. Some companies might loose, but if your business plan is only viable when you can’t pay your workers fair wages, then you shouldn’t have a business.
What can we do? We shouldn’t completely stop buying clothes but when we do we should seek out companies that pay their workers well, and accept that those clothes will cost a bit more, because they should! If the price is too good to be true you know someone’s suffering somewhere. Whether it’s the cotton picker, the sewer or the fabric is just really low quality in which case it’ll look bad after only a few washes anyway.
Take a stand, choose ethically produced clothes! If you love a certain brand that is not open about their production you should write to them and enquire about these issues. We as customers have all the power, if only we realised and cared enough to act.
Also, check out fashionrevolution.org