Insight: The invisible cost of fast fashion
Even for those who are not familiar with the fast fashion industry, the events of 2013 in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, where 1,138 people lost their lives was heart breaking news. This sudden, tragic loss of so many people seemed to shift consumers’ minds: people requested that brands must change, and apply their inclusivity and consumer respect to their workshops and factories. People stood up and demanded ethical manufacturing practices – but even after 2013, the problems fast fashion generates still exist.
According to estimates, world inflation has increased by 19.5% in the past 10 years. This showed in food, fuel and travel going up to 19.5%, yet, somehow fast fashion prices remained the same, if not less. How did they manage to keep up with offering new styles daily with a next-to-none cost? It’s time to take a pause and reflect on who’s paying for this tendency behind the scenes.
The answer lies in the shift in manufacturing to developing economies. Fast fashion houses keep their profits high and costs down, so they can keep up with a never-ending competition of providing the cheapest clothes in the shortest amount of time. This of course comes with compromises in the workers’ wages, health conditions and safety, which goes against your, our and most people’s morals.
The Next Steps Towards a New Beginning
While most fashion houses today are conscious of the issues with fast fashion and are working to make a difference, the problem lies in the complex nature of supply chains. The multiple layers involved in the manufacturing process have moved us further away from the different faceless, voiceless people behind our perfect wardrobes, so breaking the cycle sounds like a true challenge.
Luckily, we are not alone with this urge for a change. Certain governments are also cognizant of the issues with fast fashion and have passed laws which require large businesses to make public reports on their actions to address modern slavery issues in their operations and supply chains. We know that it’s a long and sometimes difficult journey to switch fashion habits, but even the smallest steps help. The next time you’re browsing through a big brand’s website, spend a few minutes searching for and reading their Transparency in Supply Chains Statement (if it applies to them) to have an idea of the bigger picture.
How Do We Make a Difference – And How Can You Participate
Ethical Manufacturing has been at the core of what we do at GnL. And by ‘Ethical Manufacturing’, we mean no compromise or green washing. We mean ethical design, production, retail and purchasing, combatting a range of issues such as exploitation, inhumane working conditions and low wages. We are incredibly proud to stand in line with brands that represent fair trade and ethical processes with a care for the environment and animal welfare. The more of these brands exist, the more alternatives, promotion and versatility shoppers like you experience in the ethical fashion scene.
What does this mean exactly?
Working conditions of workers involved
At the outset, we check with our potential manufacturing partners whether they follow ethical manufacturing practices. We proceed to the next stage of discussion only once this is confirmed. We ask our partners if they have any ethical certifications and if not, we request if we (or our representatives) can visit their factory to review the production process and working conditions under which workers operate. Once we gain scale, we hope to conduct independent audits of the manufacturers we work with.
Our products are 100% vegan. So don’t worry, they’re safe for our fellow vegans and do not contain any animal derived ingredient.
We strive to work with a range of natural fabrics (cork and teak leaf leather) as opposed to PU to ensure that the environmental impact of our products are minimised. We try and work with fabric where the main material is biodegradable, such as cork bark & teak leaf. To make sure we constantly grow as a brand, we are in the process of looking for partners to test whether these materials can be composted, and to find the most suitable way to recycle these fabric to avoid them being sent to landfills.