8 Things You Should Know about Fast Fashion

 

The fast fashion industry has been a hot topic at The Circle this year. Back in May, The Lawyers Circle published a report that sets out the legal argument that a living wage is a fundamental right. We are now planning a two-year campaign to ensure accountability in the fashion industry, to tackle the poverty wages that blight garment workers’ lives.

With that in mind, here are eight facts you should know about the clothes you wear…

1. The global apparel industry is worth $3000,000,000,000,000

Yes, you read that right: the fashion industry has global revenues of three trillion US dollars. To put that into perspective, you could buy seven million Ferraris with that money, or put fifty million students through university. There’s a lot of money to be made.

2. Much of this revenue comes from fast fashion

Fast fashion is a globalised business strategy which aims to get low-price clothes to the consumer as quickly and as cheaply as possible. Designs seen on the catwalk one week might hit the shops a fortnight later. This is a relatively recent phenomenon (global clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014) and an incredibly lucrative one. For fast fashion companies, that is.

3. While companies profit, their workers suffer

Transnational fashion corporations (the big brand names in fashion) are the real winners in this situation. They can quickly move their production to the lowest-wage states to maximise their profits. Meanwhile, the economies of producer companies have become highly dependent on the sector. This has created a “race to the bottom”, whereby states allow poverty wages in order to attract investment. Garment workers earn just $140 per month in Cambodia, $171 in parts of China and $315 in Romania.

4. Poverty wages aren’t just an issue in South Asia

The Lawyers Circle’s report on the living wage looks at clothing production in a range of countries, from Bangladesh to Morocco, from Portugal to Romania. Garment factories are spread across the globe, but their geographical diversity belies a fundamental similarity: they offer some of the lowest wage rates and worst labour conditions on earth.

5. It is mainly women who are affected

Between 60 and 75 million people work in the textile, clothing and footwear sector worldwide. Almost three quarters of them are women — 3.2 million in Bangladesh alone. Unfortunately, women are easier targets for exploitation and discrimination: they are more vulnerable to intimidation and sexual violence, and less likely to agitate for their rights.

6. Garment workers have been forced to develop coping strategies

Struggling to survive on the minimum wage, garment workers have to cut corners wherever they can. They might take out high-interest loans to pay for school books, or do extensive overtime to cover their utility bills. Many workers are foregoing vital medical treatment in order to save money, and thousands are cutting back on food (one campaigning organisation found that female garment workers could only afford to eat half the calories they needed, and would frequently faint at work as a result).

7. Paying the minimum wage is not enough

Plenty of well-known fashion companies argue that they pay their workers the national minimum wage, and should therefore be exempt from criticism. They do this knowing that the minimum wage (the lowest wage permitted by law) falls far short of the living wage (the amount needed to maintain a normal standard of living). In Cambodia, for example, garment workers can legally be paid just 6% of what they need to live a normal life. Paying the minimum wage is not enough: workers need an income that can comfortably feed their families; they need better working conditions and protection.

8. But there is hope!

Since the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh, which killed 1,334 garment workers, some progress has been made on improving conditions and wages in the garment industry. There have been numerous reports, initiatives, roadmaps and pilot projects, though most of these have yet to be implemented on a wide scale. Major brands have committed to paying the living wage, albeit with a temporal disclaimer – “eventually”, “at some point in the future”.

The Circle and The Lawyers Circle are working to accelerate the process, to ensure that companies accept responsibility for their actions and make concrete improvements to workers’ lives.

The facts in this article have been drawn from the report Fashion Focus: The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage, produced by The Lawyers Circle in partnership with TrustLaw and the Clean Clothes Campaign. Click here to read the full report, and donate to help us guarantee a living wage for all garment workers.


Feminist Calendar: September and October

Photo credit: Care International.

Here’s our roundup of feminist events happening up and down the country over the course of the next two months. Whether you’re interested in sports, art, comedy or politics, there’s something for everyone!

3 September – The Feminist Library’s Feminism and Cycling Event (London)

The Feminist Library possesses a tremendous body of literature relating to women’s rights and the women’s liberation movement. You can drop in to explore their collection, or attend their events, which run throughout the year. On 3 September, they are holding a Feminism and Cycling Event to celebrate women and their bikes. The programme for the day includes workshops, presentations, discussions, music and even some feminist yoga!

8-9 September – Scotland’s Feminist Future Conference (Glasgow)

This two-day conference hosted by Engender, Scotland’s leading feminist organisation, will explore the route to gender equality in the country. There will workshops and discussions on issues from abortion legislation and the gender pay gap to the criminal justice system and Brexit.

14-17 September – Women Over 50 Film Festival (Brighton)

The Women Over 50 Film Festival does what it says on the tin: it celebrates the work of older female film-makers and performers through screenings, Q&As, talks and workshops in the lively city of Brighton. With more than fifty events on offer, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

17 September – You Know I’m No Good: Young Women’s Empowerment Festival (London)

This one-day festival at The Jewish Museum is open to feminists of all ages and genders! Hear from inspirational speakers including Laura Bates (of The Everyday Sexism Project), Gemma Cairney (Radio 1 agony aunt and supporter of The Circle) and Susie Orbach (author of the ground-breaking book Fat is a Feminist Issue). Try your hand at life drawing or feminist embroidery, and enjoy performances and panel discussions.

22-24 September – Nasty Women Exhibition (London)

Nasty Women is an international art movement promoting solidarity in the face of threats to women’s rights. Seeking to raise funds and provide a platform for collective resistance, it displays work by female artists who identify as ‘Nasty Women’!
The London edition is taking place in Shoreditch at the end of September. It will feature paintings, photography and sculpture by up-and-coming artists. Show your support — all money raised will go to Rape Crisis UK and Women for Women International.

10 October – Ada Lovelace Day (London and around the world)

Ada Lovelace Day is an annual celebration of the progress and achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). There are grassroots celebrations around the world, but the flagship event — held at The Royal Institution in London — is not to be missed! It will feature leading STEM women giving talks and performances about their work.

11 and 12 October — The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth Book Launch (London and Sheffield)

Anti-violence campaigner and renowned author Julie Bindel will be launching her new book on the global sex trade, The Pimping of Prostitution — Abolishing the Sex Work Myth. After sharing her extraordinary journey of discovery, Julie will be joined by a panel of sex trade survivors who will be sharing their own experience and knowledge.

13 October — The Oxford Circle Fifth Anniversary (Oxford)

The Oxford Circle is a branch of The Circle led by women based in Oxford. And it is turning 5! We are going to celebrate with afternoon tea at the Malmaison hotel, a converted prison in Oxford Castle. Expect raffles and talks by leading experts in women’s health and female genital mutilation (FGM).

All funds raised will go towards supporting the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre in Cape Town.

14 October — Rally for Choice (Belfast)

Rally for Choice is a demonstration of support for a change to abortion laws in Northern Ireland. It is organised by a cross-community group of activists who advocate for free, safe and legal access to abortion. With support from The British Pregnancy Advisory Service and Amnesty International UK, Rally for Choice 2017 is sure to be a huge event.

19-29 October — Women in Comedy Festival (Manchester)

Who says women aren’t funny? The Manchester Women In Comedy Festival has been described as one of “the UK’s best comedy festivals”, combining laughter with feminist principles. This year’s event includes solo shows, open mic workshops and a writing competition, so everyone can get involved!