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The fashion system was not working. Now it has collapsed, it is up to us to rebuild it.

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

Lately, we have started seeing stories about garment workers being rescued from factories. When we saw the story of nearly 1,200 workers being saved from a factory in the middle of the pandemic, we felt the need to share. Not only because it is shocking, but also because it shows that the pandemic has not stopped the industry and that there is a growing potential for change in the cracks it has created.

Let us step back for a moment.

A system in crisis

The fashion industry has been a dysfunctional system for a very long time. A system that prides itself on growth, speed, and fortune that is made at the cost of human life and the planet is not a success. A business model that over-produces and needs an ever-increasing amount of water, energy, labour and space cannot possibly survive. We have known this for years. Though those in power keep choosing not to see, most of our clothes come with an extreme human cost.

Usually, when a crisis happens, it is those in the lowest positions who feel it the most. As we wrote in our previous post, when the pandemic started, it had the greatest effect on the garment workers.. How brands and factories reacted to the crisis follows the same logic of exploitation and “profit-over-anything” kind of thinking. However, we cannot solely blame the pandemic for the crisis in the fashion industry. Instead, we have to be aware that the issues run much deeper.

We cannot pretend to be able to show the whole complexity of the fashion system in a single post. Not even a series of posts. However, we can start connecting the dots to explain the reason why the workers were locked down in a factory and what the emergency response could teach us all.

A paradox?

India is the world’s 5th largest economy, and now has the second highest amount of COVID-19 cases recorded (by country). Recently, the Guardian reported that the current coronavirus cases in India have soared with a new daily record number of 78,761 - the world’s highest single-day increase since the start of the COVID pandemic. This has increased the total number of cases in India to 4.8 million (as of 15/09/20 according to the Guardian) in a country of 1.4 billion people.

The already large number of COVID cases is increasing, which means that there is pressure on the government to impose even stricter lockdowns. However, there are also a number of industries hemorrhaging money and facing collapse post COVID unless they are able to open for business immediately.

India’s economy is plummeting and this will most highly likely result in the loss of jobs for many Indian garment workers. Consequently, this could mean an increase in modern slavery and women working for even less merely to survive the pandemic. We can see this happening already, through the loss of 5 million jobs in July and