Did you know that most fashion brands use the same trade routes that were established by colonials 150 years ago?
Colonialism is defined as “the policy and practice of a power in extending control over weaker peoples or areas”. In today’s world, this is very easily translated to most organizations, but especially holds true in fashion. According to Wikipedia, the largest apparel exporting nations were China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Turkey and Hong Kong – ie. non-white countries, producing clothes for American/European brands.
These brands, much like the colonial countries back in the 15th century, rely on lax rules and regulations of local governments to exploit resources. Whether it is health & safety regulations, which in their native countries would be a lot more stringent, or human right violations, which again would be difficult for them to get away with in their own countries. And while environmental laws are weak around the world, how many countries in the western world would compromise a river for production of clothes?
Super high turnover means very high profits – the company that owns Zara was the highest grossing fashion brand in 2018. But just as colonialist countries exploited the resources with an aim of economic dominance, the profit is seldom passed on to the workers who invest their skills and time into making of the apparel. In fact, they are paid an average of Rs. 40 per hour.
So to sum it up, yes, you’re actually paying modern-day slave masters who are getting richer on the backs of the miseries of your fellow countrymen – and women.
Imma let American author and sustainability advocate Anne Lappe sum it up – ‘Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want’.