I see a tidal wave turning as people realize that cheap disposable clothing is not cheap at all.
Rhea Singh is the Director of Strategy behind Ashima & Leena Couture http://www.ashima-leena.com. When we met in India, she told me how she had been moved to leave Europe for India to inspire change and effectuate it. We had a simply mahvelous time (dahling) as Rhea is total riot. I also discovered that she is an eloquent writer.
My absolute favorite Ashima & Leena Sari from last year’s collection.
Rhea is at the top echelon of Indian fashion, her designs stunning, her vision unique. But that is only part of her success. Rhea briefly told me of some of her programs to educate and empower children of garment workers. Rhea is probably as close to the cheap fast fashion industry as I am. In her field of passion, she is being the change, wrapped in the ethos of ethical business. Her margins are built-in to give back. She has come to the same conclusion of the triple bottom line I grew up with at Nature’s Path: socially responsible, environmentally sustainable and financially viable.
Wanting a fashion insider’s point of view, I asked Rhea if she would respond to Emma’s comment from my first Bangladesh Blues post https://thedeepersideblog.com/2013/04/27/bangladesh-fast-fashion-blues/ . Here is what she said.
“We’re here to discuss the dark side that is driven by the retail giants that seek monopolistic profits and will go to any length to keep our favorite heather tee under $9.99, never-mind that the guy who could be making it for us in a third-world country in Asia is overworked and has earned poverty wages for it. Addressing this question more specifically on the subject of your post, it would be in a sense right ( and in a sense wrong ! ) to confuse a Gap assembly-line with a batch of fair-trade coffee. The cheapest of goods have to be made in the cheapest of countries. The cheapest of countries must offer the cheapest of pay to the cheapest of labour to meet the offered price. The cheapest of labour will be subjected to the poorest of conditions. This is the reality of competitive manufacturing and the built-in complicity of the volume game.
“So, unless the biggies of the mass-market labels come together to actively counter the plague of deplorable back-end conditions – the red–tape will flourish, there will be more fatalities and little room for the formation of independent trade-bodies. Stringent checks on work-environs have to become mandatory. At the risk of sounding idealistic, compliance guidelines with penalty-treaty agreements have to be set, regardless of currency fluctuations, price shifts and delivery deadlines. And that can be all done while keeping rigorous price and quality demands, if only the greed for profit would marginally subside.
“It boils down to a simple statement and I quote : ” By the perverse moral logic to which today’s captains of industry subscribe, a corporation would never voluntarily reduce its profits, however modestly, to accomplish an irrelevant purpose like paying a decent wage to the people around the world who make its products. “
I maintain that if we spend our money on clothing that is ethically and socially –
responsibly made, we will signal the markets and the markets will change.
Markets respond to shocks. Let’s shock the markets.
Be idealists and hold steadfast.
We are of stardust and light.
We deserve no less.