Written by Andrew Rupp
Though this blog series has focused on the fashion and textiles production in Tirupur, India, there remains much to say regarding fashion ventures worldwide. Since the industry’s inception, countless human rights abuses have been generated by those who create profit-driven business models and corporate policies.
Despite new legislation, forced labor and modern-day slavery remain rampant. In recent decades, a growing body of research examining these issues arose with aspirations for policy reform. Besides, these issues are not isolated, as they continue to plague “developing” (oppressed) nations as well as “developed” (hegemonic) nations (as a consequence of their corporate extensions). The steady devitalization of the middle and poorer classes has become so normalized that many persevere with less and less.
For instance, here in the UK, despite having the 5th highest economy in the world[i], millions struggle to make it on the set living wage. Peculiarly, many face job insecurity despite working multiple jobs and whilst depending on food banks to feed their families[ii]. Moreover, issues of forced labor and modern-day slavery are occurring within the UK. Fast-fashion brand Boohoo and its sister companies extort profits at whatever cost to their work staff; paying workers £3 an hour while meting out “blatant intimidation of vulnerable workers”[iii].
Fashion and textile industries have extreme environmental impacts, as well, with estimations of “17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and finishing treatment given to fabric”[iv]. Rivers in the Tirupur area, for example, have been found to have an increased microbial (pollutants) concentration than those in non-industrial sites[v].
Even in the face of social, economic, and/or environmental ruin, corporate bodies will employ whatever methods they can for which to profit. As India is now becoming the fashion capital of the world, there is obvious need for concern regarding social and environmental collapse[vi]. Additionally, at this stage, and with such a robust body of research, corporate use of plausible deniability cannot be taken seriously, with the need to place limits on business growth at such great costs.
Why must these crimes against humanity continue? There are numerous answers to this question, yet the root cause is, simply, greed. There exist countless avenues of exploit, that is, until mandates are passed or are better enforced, thereby limiting the harm industries bring about. We at Justice in Fashion have created this blog series with hopes to raise awareness while we continue to work for creating positive change in the fashion industry and to provide a voice for those who are voiceless[vii]
[i] World Bank (2021). Gross domestic product 2020. [online] Available at: https://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP.pdf [Accessed 17 Nov. 2021]. [ii] Durham University (2018). When seven jobs just isn’t enough - Durham University. [online] www.dur.ac.uk. Available at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/news/allnews/thoughtleadership/?itemno=36870 [Accessed 16 Oct. 2021]. [iii] Boohoo & COVID-19: The people behind the profits. (2020). [online] Labour Behind the Label. Available at: https://labourbehindthelabel.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/LBL-Boohoo-WEB.pdf [Accessed 17 Oct. 2021]. [iv] Kant, R. (2012). Textile dyeing industry an environmental hazard. Natural Science, 04(01), pp.22–26. [v] Prabha, S., Gogoi, A., Mazumder, P., Ramanathan, AL. and Kumar, M. (2016). Assessment of the impact of textile effluents on microbial diversity in Tirupur district, Tamil Nadu. Applied Water Science, [online] 7(5), pp.2267–2277. [vi] Economic Times - India Times (2021). India has potential to become fashion capital of world: Piyush Goyal. The Economic Times. [online] 15 Nov. Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/cons-products/garments-/-textiles/india-has-potential-to-become-fashion-capital-of-world-piyush-goyal/articleshow/87707286.cms. [vii] Justice in Fashion. (2021). Justice in Fashion. [online] Available at: https://www.justiceinfashion.org/.