On Monday the BBC brought to our attention the ongoing problems created by fast fashion. Turkey has not only become a hotspot for refugees but also for fashion brands who are now employing refugees. As sad as it is, we weren’t shocked by what we saw. Time after time we are shown that brands do not know who is making their clothes - most devastatingly in the response of brands to the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. This time the programme showed how our insatiable appetite for cheap fashion results in boys as young as 13 years old being paid 70p an hour doing 60 hour weeks! Exploitation of this scale is a violation of human rights on every level.
Not only are Syrians being forced to flee their homes but they are also being forced to work for next to nothing for UK high street brands. The Panorama programme uncovered the ugly truth of the garment industry and how children are being exploited. All the brands in the documentary denied the fact that they had children working in their factories and insisted that they are blameless but this passing the buck simply doesn’t cut it any more. Brands must take the responsibility of knowing exactly which factories are making their clothes – if the auditing isn’t working then they need to come up with a better way to track the supply chain. It just isn’t good enough to shift the blame onto the factory workers.
Consumers are waking up and taking notice of the way brands run their businesses and patience is running very low for brands whose values and beliefs do not reflect our own. If these high street brands want to move with the times they need to sharpen up their act. When the garment industry operates in the right way it can pay people a fair living wage which will not only lift people out of poverty but help create sustainable employment. We need to continue to educate consumers’ as to why cheap isn’t best and put pressure on the brands who are promoting the fast fashion phenomenon to start taking more responsibility. As the Panorama show demonstrates, someone somewhere is paying in ways you can’t imagine for these goods to be so cheap.
Watch the programme here.