What is a sweatshop?
Sweatshop refers to small or big factories or manufacturing establishment which employ workers under unfair and unsanitary working condition. They do not get the wages they deserve, have to work more extended period than the dictated norms, i.e., overtime without the salary that comes with overtime, child labour, industrial homework, lack occupation safety, and health, do not compensate the workers and do not work under the regulation set for that particular industry (in this case, clothing, shoe and purse industry).
Visit a sweatshop once, and you can tell why sweatshops are bad. The conditions are congested. Workers are cramped together in a small space — all to maximise production. The conditions there are unsafe, too. With exposed electrical wiring, blocked aisles, unguarded machinery, insecure or lacking safety measurements in case of some turbulence, unguarded machinery and unsanitary bathrooms. There is minimal ventilation, lack of temperature control and insufficient lighting.
Despite all this hardship, one would expect they get paid what they deserve. But the reality is contrary to it. To hold on to their profits, the workers are compensated as minimally as possible. Think twenty rupees. There is no job security, health benefits and overtime pay. There is also no interval between working hours, and hence, they do not get much rest. The people working sweatshops are more often than not, struggling to make ends meet and are financially in a fragile place.
Now, most Indian must be aware of child labour and all the rules and regulations surrounding it. Sweatshops find advantages in hiring children. They enjoy employing children to be precise. Mostly because children are less potent to complaining about the working conditions in a sweatshop and will accept whatever amount they get, they also have a small and faster hand which are beneficial for a lot of jobs.
One can curse their parents for sending them to work in sweatshops. But think about it for a moment. The families are barely able to get some food on their plates. Schools are a dream they believe to be stupid when compared to feed in their stomach. A family living below poverty line usually has five or six people, sometimes more, living in their houses. Of course, according to them, each of them has to work. Especially when they only get twenty rupees and food outside costs nothing less than fifty rupees. Will five rupees biscuit fill the stomach of five to six people?
It is also essential that children attend school. This will allow them to learn and improve their own lives. They will learn about the disadvantages of having five children, advantages of family planning, about the environment, about why they are being treated wrong and give them the confidence to raise their voice against prevalent evil.
But sweatshops do not avail them with this chance
Sweatshops are a common sight. Corporations abroad move their factories to the subcontinent where labour is readily available and cheap. They do this to lower the operation cost. The idea of employment attracts people, even though the salary paid might be equal to no work.
Sweatshops are not a necessary evil. Not for these workers! With all the work they put into it, it is not wrong to expect they get at least enough salary to be able to meet their daily expense.
The biggest sweatshop industries across the globe are clothing, shoes, rugs and carpets, chocolate and cocoa, coffee, bananas and toys.
You can assume that a sweatshop at the very least violates at two or three labour laws in one breath.
What is unsustainable or fast fashion?
Fast fashion or unsustainable fashion is not about catwalk to the consumer as much as it is about contributing to the garbage and lousy living condition in sweatshops. It has been blamed for pollution, shady artistry and on emphasising brief trends over classic styles that will not go out of style. Fast fashion is often criticised because it lacks the quality to be considered as a collectable vintage or historic collection.
Do you know where do discard clothes go? Even Thrift shops tend to abandon the clothes they did not sell. These clothes go into landfills. Most of these clothes are inorganic and synthetic. Thus, these are unable to degrade properly. The chemicals in this fabric tend to mix in with underground water and water sources such as a river.
Throughout the various phases of textile production, the different strata and aquatic, terrestrial parts of environment experience harm like the greenhouse gas released into the air. The transportation of byproduct globally require vehicles and use heavy machinery. This results in the emission of carbon dioxide.
It also leads to over-consumption. Like the previous year’s clothes might still be useful but out of trend. They are noticing which, the consumer might ditch the last year’s clothes for new ones even though he or she could still wear the earlier ones. Fast fashion encourages consumers to buy more frequently. Hence, as a result of excessive stock and out of trend clothes, most of these end up in landfills.
Does the question arise as to why the brands do not just donate the clothes? According to the brands, if they begin to give clothes, the value of their brand will decrease as they will no longer remain exclusive.
Fast fashion merchandise operates on a business of low quality and high quantity. Quantity over quality, one can say. Because they are of low quality, it leads to a more severe problem of over-consumption as the clothes tend to have a shorter life span. They need to be continuously replaced.
Since they cannot last long, they can not be collected or be recycled to its full potential.
In summary, fast fashion takes the latest design, creates it into a second piece for mass consumption in a short production cycle. This low cost makes it of a low quality which lasts for a season. Then it ends up in a landfill. Because the trends are continuously changing, the demand for the previous year clothes decreases. Again the in-stock garments end up in a landfill to maintain brand exclusivity. The next season, the cycle is repeated. There is also a problem with sweatshops in which the labours work under below standard condition.
What is sustainable fashion or slow fashion?
Sustainable fashion or slow fashion is a step towards a change in how the fashion industry works. It is a step towards becoming eco-friendly and providing social justice to the less fortunate. It looks at fashion from more perspective than just of a consumer and manufacturer. Hence, it can also be called eco-fashion.
The purpose of eco-fashion is to increase the value of local produce and products, increase the life cycle of material, invest in timeless pieces, reduce the amount of waste and harm done to the environment and to educate people to practise a more environmentally friendly consumption by becoming a green consumer.
It consists of durable garments, production of clothes that hold timeless value, traditional production techniques, and reducing landfill dump of clothes. It means various things to a diverse cast of people. Like to workers in sweatshops, it means a better working condition and more payment. For users, it says, better designs manufactured with great care and high-quality product. For the environment, it means less waste and pollution.
The disadvantage of slow fashion lies in its cost. Only people in an elevated position can afford to invest in high style. The middle class and lower class do not have access to the expensive but eco-friendly option of slow way. There is also the general frowning on the idea of repeating clothes, thinking it to be too weak in taste or something along those lines because of social status. The path from over-consumption to ethical clothing is ridden with gaps in attitude. It is a complicated change to make, albeit also an essential change.
That is where sustainability enters. One can start by being more sustainable. You can read it as being cunning, smart or creative. By following the five Rs of waste management, one can become a more sustainable consumer. Hence, a green consumer.
The five ‘R’s are: Reduce, Reuse, Refuse, Recycle and Recover
When it comes to fabric use organic cotton fibre, organic hemp fibre, natural linen fibre, Sasawashi (developed from plant Kumazasa in Japan), Khadi, Soy clothing and jute.
Use your clothes until you can not. Pass it on to the next generation, sell it online or to a local thrift shop, give it away to someone in need or exchange it for something else. But it to its very last fibre. After you can not use it anymore, recycle it. Tear up your jeans and if someone criticises you about wearing something appropriate only on a beggar, educate them about sustainability.
Go local. Buy clothes from local shops and brands. Not only will it help the economy of your country but also local art and craft which are starting to see death in the name of fast, economical fashion. It is also advantageous in the line of reducing vehicular pollution.
Think of these questions:
Is this important? Do I need it? Can I do without it? How can I make more of it? Does it have more use than one? Is there nothing else I can do but throw it?
Brands that are unsustainable and sustainable are:
Sustainable Brands? Indian brands like:
- Upasana which supports the weaving community of India.
- No-nasties which proclaims to be 100% organic and fair trade clothing. They declare that they pay fair wages to their workers with no price exploitation and child labour. They also do not use genetically modified seeds and synthetic pesticides.
- House of Wandering Silk uses handmade and upcycled materials. Their clothes are not trend-based and have a timeless value to them.
- Ba No Batwa follows the adage of reducing, reuse and recycle. It calls itself a modern-day rag picker and uses collected wastes like plastic bottles, discarded clothes, etc. to create fashion items.
Also, read as brands that hate you and the Earth.
The list includes H&M, Zara, Forever21, Nasty Gal, Mango, Urban Outfitters, Mark&Spender, P&G, Unilever and Shein, among others.