Today a class of 21 students had the opportunity to learn and discuss a bit more about sustainability in the fashion industry in Latin America and Europe, taking as examples countries such as Peru and Germany. After asking the students what they think about fast fashion we got the following answers. Some of the answers included exploitation, not eco-friendly, cheap, child labour, bad quality, pollution, Bangladesh, mass production, and more.
Realising that this class knew very well the “behind the scenes” of fast fashion we continued with another interesting activity. Now all students will have the opportunity to do a “World Trip” around all the stations that Fast Fashion involves and will learn how this industry affects not only the environment but also people’s lives in many different countries. The first station begins in Europe where designers have to please the current demand of 24 collections per year. It normally means one design every two weeks. The journey continues to Uzbekistan where the production of cotton takes place. It is common to find women and cheap labour. This is a special case since Uzbekistan used to host the largest lake in Europe, the Aral Sea, that besides the environmental factors, has dried to 90% of all its capacity due to this process of the fast fashion industry.
For the upcoming steps, we entered the topic of child labour in Asia. The next step of the fast fashion industry is the spinning and weaving the cotton. For this station, we travelled to India and we had an example of the Sumangali girls that translated into English mean “lucky brides”. These girls are between 14 and 18 years old and are recruited to work for three years at the lowest wages to receive a sum at the end. It is important to say that they work under poor work conditions such as great heat and machine noise, instead of becoming a decent education at that age. After this step, our clothing needs to be dyed with textile colours which normally contain undesirable chemicals such as heavy metals and some hazardous organic chemicals. Normally the consequences of these chemicals are a slow long-term process that children and any worker don’t realise and this activity can affect the hormonal system and can produce carcinogenic cells in the body (Greenpeace, 2008).
For step 6 we travelled to Bangladesh the second largest exporter of knitwear after China with more than 4500 factories in the capital Dhaka. More than 4 million workers, 85% of whom are women work in the garment industry and especially in the sewing process. The Rana Plaza disaster made a difference in the history of the textile industry by exposing the terrible conditions in the factories and the lack of safety. To find out more you can watch the following video:
After all these stations our clothing is ready to be sold in our stores. Our stores offer a new collection every two weeks and that makes huge pressure on designers and creates a trend movement in society who is used to buying new clothing to “fit” the social standards. Would you like to know how regularly distributed the prices of your jeans are?
This picture shows us that the people working behind this T-shirt receive less than 1% of the total price, only 0.6% of total price. Normally a garment worker earns between 1$ to 2$ per day and a monthly wage of 55$ to 110$. On the other hand, Zara the biggest garment company has been making around 25 billion euros on average per year in the last 10 years. Now that you know how they work and the consequences of working in this industry, do you think that that payment is fair?
If you think that Europe or your hometown is the last station of your old or recycled clothes, you might be wrong. Unfortunately, much of the clothing we donate or are not sold by fashion companies is sent to Africa. This “cheap” commercialized clothing is sold second-hand but not everybody in countries like Ghana or Kenya. Around 40% of the tons of clothing that arrive every day in Africa won’t be sold and would the image be our “not-wanted” clothing end? Let’s have a look:
After understanding the negative impacts of the fast fashion industry, we must focus now on the solutions. Here sustainability and sustainable development goals play an important role. Sustainability comes to show us its three dimensions and its goal to achieve a fair win-win relationship among all of them. In 2015 the United Nations launched 17 sustainable development goals to achieve a better and fairer world for everyone. These goals aim to be a framework for governments, companies, civil society and all interesting groups to reduce inequalities in the Global South and North. The UN encourages them to accomplish all these goals by 2030, and all 198 countries signed to accomplish them until that year. Do you think this would be possible?
In this part of the workshop each group received a garment and they had the task of re-designing the supply chain management of their products by taking into account the following topics:
🌍Country of production
🧕Work conditions for your workers
📈Advantages for your workers
💸Worker salary per hour
💸Fair price for your product
♻️Sustainable material you will use
💡Sustainable solutions to fight fast fashion
Group 1: Re-designing the production of Jeans 👖
🌍The first group decided to produce more sustainable jeans in Bosnia, Macedonia and Croatia. Because these countries were part of the Soviet Union and they don’t have a big industry to develop their economies. This will be a great opportunity to cooperate with them and give them new workplaces while reducing transportation costs and CO2 emissions.
📈They proposed better work conditions such as a fair payment with a minimum pay of 15€, a maximum of 8 hours of work per day and 30 vacation days. All their workers will receive occupation and healthy according to German Law.
⭐The advantages that the workers will have is security such as insurance, and financing help, among others. The new company will offer family-friendliness solutions, educational opportunities and wage adjustments in any case.
💸The price of the new jeans will be 60€ and workers will enjoy a fair salary of 15€ per hour and free meals and beverages during their working hours to save money on their own.
♻️To be sustainable, the jeans will be made of more sustainable materials such as old fabric remote clothes containers, bottoms, rivets and zippers from copper cables and old metals to reduce the existing clothing and avoiding to land in African countries.
💡The main solutions presented by this group are the taxation of fast fashion products and one-use materials, reputable certifications and up-cycling of fabrics from old clothes.
⭐The SDGs that this group wants to focus on are #SDG5 Gender Equality, #SDG1 No Poverty, #SDG3 Health & Wellbeing, and #SDG12 Responsible Consumption and Production.
Group 2: Re-designing the production of T-shirts 👕
🌍The second group decided to produce a more sustainable t-shirt in Germany and in neighbour countries. This can represent cost-saving opportunities and reduction of CO2 emissions due to long transportation.
💸They proposed a fair payment with a minimum pay of 15€ and fair working hours with a maximum of 8 hours of work per day and 30 vacation days.
📈The advantages for the workers will focus on equality and acceptance for everyone. With zero discrimination and equal opportunities.
💸The price of the new jeans will be between 15 and 20€ and workers will enjoy a fair salary of 15€ per hour.
♻️To be sustainable, their t-shirt will be made of upcycled garments and regional products that are unnecessary and can be reused.
💡The strategic and sustainable solutions presented by this group are based on lean thinking principles such as re-utilisation, shorter export routes and less waste.
⭐The SDGs that this group wants to focus on are #SDG5 Gender Equality, #SDG10 Reduce of Inequalities, and #SDG12 Responsible Consumption and Production.
Group 3: Re-designing the production of coat 🧥
🌍The third group decided to produce a more sustainable coat out of plastic bottles from Italy, Spain and France. This can represent cost-saving opportunities and reduction of CO2 emissions due to shorter transport routes.
The working conditions involve security such as health and safety and insurance. 📈The advantages for the workers focus on human rights such as pregnancy protection, parental leave, and promotion opportunities. The first two promote inclusivity for women who works in this industry, and the last one encourages workers to keep improving and reach better opportunities within the company, so they receive the value they deserve.
💸The price of the new coat will be 80€ while workers will enjoy a fair salary of 15€ per hour as well. The price is accessible to the demand in comparison to other brands and the price includes the added value of using sustainable materials and the whole process.
♻️To be sustainable, this group proposes sustainable materials such as old metal for the bottoms and coat buckle, plastic bottles, tyres and one-way rubber for the coat layers.
💡As part of the solution, they propose a new and innovative way to design high-quality coats in Europe. Clients should choose this product because there is transparency among all processes and they want to show how everything works internally to share with the consumers the real work they are doing towards their workers and the environment.
⭐The SDGs that this group wants to focus on are #SDG1 No Poverty, #SDG3 Health & Wellbeing, #SDG5 Gender Equality, #SDG6 Clean Water and Sanitation, and #SDG13 Climate Action.
Group 4: Re-designing the production of shoes 👞
🌍The fourth group decided to produce more sustainable shoes with raw materials from Spain and Italy and a production place in Germany. Besides contributing to the cost and emission, this decision contributes to the local production and local products.
📈The working conditions involve the prohibition of child labour, fair working hours with a maximum of 8 hours of work per day and good work-safe conditions for all workers.
The advantages for the workers will be security such as health and safety and insurance, fair working conditions, and hygiene at the workplace.
💸This group offers would like to offer their employees 12,50€ per hour (the normal minimum wage in Germany) plus 4,5€ per day for transportation in order to cover some daily costs. While the price for the shoes will be 120€ for sports shoes and €200 for leather shoes.
♻️These shoes will be made of recycled plastics from Italy and Spain and bio leather and cotton from Scotland.
💡As part of the solution against fast fashion, they propose innovative shoes made of bioproducts and accessible for all the public made locally without partnering with neighbour countries and profiting from the free-trade market in Europe.
⭐The SDGs that this group wants to focus on are #SDG3 Health & Wellbeing, #SDG8 Human-worthy work and Economic growth, and #SDG13 Climate Action.