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Mindful dressing

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Vintage & Sustainable Fashion

Author: Lynda Rowland, Posted: Friday, 7th August 2020, 12:10

In the aftermath of recent events, the retail sector is looking considerably different today.

It could turn out to be a sad time for some small fashion businesses, and even some of the larger outlets whose supply chains have broken down during the recent crisis and who have made losses due to lack of consumer spending.

Who knows what the long-term effects of the 2020 pandemic will be? High street sales were already declining so, after months of enforced online shopping and people developing less of a desire for and expectation of new things, a more minimalistic society may result.

The planet’s resources were already being diminished by high demand and perhaps a welcome outcome of these extraordinary times will be less pressured consumerism and a more ethical manufacturing and retail industry.

Of course, this will impact on employment but, gradually, jobs will be introduced which reflect this shift in production, sales and services. Hopefully with this in mind, many small businesses will be able to retrain staff, perhaps move more of their sales online and attempt to diversify.

A recent positive event has been the exposure of bad practices in the fast fashion sector and shockingly, this has been discovered in the UK where we expect higher standards than in some of the less developed countries which supply our brands. The Leicester ‘sweatshop’ scandal, uncovered largely by reporters from the Sunday Times, has opened our eyes to the fact that, just because things are produced at home, our ethical practices and high standards are not necessarily always being followed.

The report highlighted the fact that many factories in Leicester, which were particularly supplying one of this country’s largest fast-fashion giants, were found to be paying workers just £3.50 per hour when the minimum UK wage for those over 25 years old is £8.72. This, together with other alleged unethical practices and dangerous working conditions, has resulted in a criminal investigation.

The company in question recently used the fact that they are producing a large amount of their stock in the UK as positive promotional propaganda. Leaving aside the fact that shoppers see that as a positive due to a lessening effect on carbon emissions, support for local economies and promoting homegrown skills, the implication is that the UK’s standards of ethical practice and fair employment are being met. This is clearly not always the case.

In fact, a well-regulated factory in India, which is creating jobs for its local workforce, utilising skills that have been passed down through centuries and treating its workers fairly and along the guidelines expected by its consumers, is ethically superior to a factory which may be run on the lines of modern slavery in Britain.

Our clothing may come from across the world or closer to home, but the important fact to remember is that if you can buy a dress for £10, someone somewhere is paying the true cost. As Bronwyn Lowenthal, owner of ethical fashion company Lowie in South London says, “As a maker of fine-quality, responsibly-made clothes for the past 18 years, I’m aware of the costs and just can’t see how this can be done, even at scale.”                         

Ridiculously cheap clothing should ring alarm bells for us all. As women, we owe it to the largely female workforce in the fashion industry to think carefully before putting cost before fair pay and acceptable working conditions. So, when you see a garment that is unbelievably cheap, step back and remind yourself – and your friends – that somebody somewhere is bound to be paying the price. 

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