Even though fashion is seen as a glamorous and lucrative industry, few people are aware that the workers involved in the garment sector are laboring under conditions that are borderline slavery and dangerous to their health.
The salaries that these people receive are still considered poverty wages and working conditions are so horrendous they’re making their workers sick. Undoubtedly, this is one fashion issue that has remained unaddressed for the longest time, at the will of your favourite brands.
This does not mean that nothing is being done to help out underpaid garment workers. Efforts are actually being made but according to several concerned groups, these are hardly sufficient. As such, many high-end fashion brands have come to be tagged as exploiters especially given the lingering issue about poor wages.
An interesting aspect about this particular problem is the fact that a number of garment workers involved in the manufacture of branded clothing are based in third-world or developing countries. This tends to further worsen the problem as labor costs in these places are quite low and is the number one reason garment production is often outsourced to these parts of the world. Vice News recently went to Bangladesh where they reported that more than 200 tanneries in Dhaka are spewing toxic waste and causing workers to suffer severe health problems.
There is a serious need for more socially-conscious people and enterprises to come forward and offer solutions. From this perspective, the concept of ethical fashion is often brought to light, but the question of what ethical fashion is all about is something that can be unclear at times.
This is understandable since the term covers a rather wide range of areas. For instance, from the trading point of view, ethical fashion involves the practice of ensuring that garment workers stationed in various factories are compensated fairly, while those who supply the raw materials are given fair rates for their products. From a long-term perspective, ethical fashion can also involve the establishment of a strong and equal relationship between garment manufacturers and fashion designers with a view to complying with existing labor laws and safe working environments.
Ethical fashion, however, is a fashion issue not entirely limited to the protection of the rights of workers to decent wages. Even animal rights are covered by this important fashion term. In this case, when observing ethical fashion, the goal is to ensure that in the production of clothing items like leather and fur, no mistreatment of animals took place and that the production was not done under excessive terms.
From an environmental standpoint, observing good fashion ethics is also expected. During the clothing production process, chemically-treated dyes are hardly recommended but commonly used even as natural fabrics are given preference. Ostensibly, the goal here is to minimize the impact of chemicals on the environment and workers.
Needless to say, ethical fashion is one fashion issue that covers a lot of important aspects. Meeting its basic requirements should effectively address all the major problems confronting the fashion industry. Sadly, this is hardly the case. The business of fashion is clothed in glamour and style that the typical woman on the street is often unaware of what actually goes on behind the trend-setting designs.
Specialized groups like cooperatives, labor unions, and cause-oriented organizations should seek to play a more active role. The emphasis is not necessarily to dress down the fashion world to its bare necessities but to address one fashion issue at a time in order to help make the industry stand for something more than just style and sophistication.