According to “Santa's Sweatshop...,” many companies use subcontractors to manufacture products. The condition that these subcontractors provide for their work-force is exploitative and unethical. Yet at the same time, citizens in underdeveloped countries need work. For example, Holstein discusses Disney‘s use of subcontractors, “Workers in Haiti received 6 cents for producing [an] item, which retails for $19.99 in the United States. The wages are attractive in a country with overwhelming unemployment.” Clearly, many workers have no choice. They can either work in terrible conditions, or not work at all.
Recently, NY Magazine's The Cut Blog made the claim that the phenomena of fast-fashion has worsened the conditions of subcontracted garment factories. “The fast-fashion wave is drowning third-world factories in massive orders that they’re unequipped to produce, but also can’t afford to turn down,” which forces laborers to work even longer and harder, with more stress and demand placed on them. Most significantly, the article states that this demand comes from consumers --even though they do not realize it, “as long as consumers gobble up fast fashion, retailers will try to keep up the supply…terrible factory conditions are just as much the fault of shoppers as of lackadaisical inspectors and exploitative manufacturing giants.”
This left me wondering, what can we do? I truly see the popularity of fast-fashion everywhere. But obviously, we can’t simply boycott, because workers need jobs. But at the same time, it is wrong that they have no choice but to work in such abusive conditions. Sadly, this is a human rights issue that is easy for most people to ignore - because when we buy these clothes, we don’t have to look at the faces of the people who produced them. Although “Santa’s Sweatshop...” did offer some tips for consumers, I still find myself wondering what else can we do?
30 Day Challenge Update: So far, things are going well! I went home this weekend and shopped at my favorite place - my mother's closet. I'm glad that she kept some of her clothing from the 70's/80's, because they are really cute. It's interesting how trends recycle themselves, so these looks are still popular today (menswear-styled blazers, peter pan collars, etc). But more importantly, I really value these garments because they have a history (for example: a button down dress, which was one of the first gifts my father gave my mom, when they started dating). It's silly, but these clothes feel really special to me, because they'll always remind me of my mom.
Inside Source: Holstein, Palmer, Ur-Rehman and Ito. "Santa's Sweatshop: In a Global Economy, it's Hard to Know Who Made Your Gift- and Under What Conditions." Reader.
Outside Source: http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2010/08/fast_fashion_frenzy_overwhelms.html