Fashion is an art form. It is a way for for time periods, countries, generations, and people to express themselves. Yet there is something ugly behind this beautiful masterpiece that we take for granted. The clothing industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil, and it’s also one of the largest employers of slave and child labor.
So many people go out and buy clothes they don’t need with money they don’t have, but most of the time some of those clothes just sit there in the back of the closet with the tag still on, collecting dust. When you finally decide to clean out your closet, many of the unwanted clothes end up in dumps. We each throw out 70 pounds of clothing a year, and 20 percent of that is brand new.
It gets worse.
The person who made your piece of clothing is probably living in a third-world country, earning horrible wages, working in harmful conditions, risking their lives in highly unsafe buildings just so that piece of clothing can sit in the back of your closet, then get tossed in the trash.
The minimum monthly wage for garment workers in Bangladesh is $68. Sixty percent of the clothes go to Europe, 23 percent to the United States, and 5 percent to Canada. When we buy clothing from a brand, we’re often just buying the label. Many brands don’t advertise their supply chain, and that is one reason we have a crisis.
On April 24, 2013, 1,134 people were killed and hundreds were injured when the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, collapsed. It was built on swampy grounds, and even though it sparked protests and demands for greater safety, three years later progress in fixing the issues is unbearably slow. Until the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, many companies never thought of building safety as an issue. A former chief engineer of the state-run Capital Development Authority said the owner had not received proper consent for the building, and that an extra three stories were added illegally.
Knowing where your clothes come from should make you rethink what you wear and where you buy it.