By Caitlin Dearing, Guest Writer
If you were to look at the tag of the shirt you are currently wearing, what would it say?
If you bought it from any of the trendiest stores (H&M, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, and many more), chances are it would bear the name of a South Asian country where U.S. companies are paying workers next-to-nothing wages and providing abysmal working conditions.
In 2015, a documentarian name Andrew Morgan released a film entitled True Cost. In an hour and a half, he explained just what it costs when consumers participate in what has come to be known as “fast fashion.”
The cost is human lives.
Two years before the release of the documentary, a Bangladeshi garment factory where clothes were being manufactured for companies like Wal-Mart and GAP collapsed, killing over 1,000 people. Factories like this are scattered all over South Asia, and each one of these dangerous facilities threaten the safety of every worker inside. These garment workers face not only low wages, but also harassment from management, forced overtime, and severe punishment for attempting to unionize in order to improve their situation. Even after the issue received international attention for multiple news cycles, conditions have not changed in these factories.
However, the attitudes of consumers are changing, and there is no better way to send a message than with money.
Over the last five years, the demand for ethically made goods has been steadily increasing. This has created success for companies who go the extra mile to create products in an ethical way, such as Krochet Kids. The company was founded in the midst of the aforementioned scandals, and it decided it was going to do what it could to solve the problems facing impoverished people—especially impoverished women. Each of their items is made by women who are using their training with Krochet Kids to elevate themselves out of poverty, and to provide a more comfortable life for their children. Instead of mass producing thousands of each garment, they are hand cut and sewn by these women, signed, and when they run out of a product, they are out of it for the foreseeable future. In short, Krochet Kids and companies like it could be considered “slow fashion.”
In the ten years since Krochet Kids began, the women they have trained have increased their income ten times, increased their savings twenty-five times, and this financial independence has led to a drop in violence, and a gain in quality of life. The great thing is that Krochet Kids is constantly gaining in popularity, which allows them to expand and hire even more women. When they started out, they only had 10 women who crocheted hats and gloves, and now, just about five years later, they have an entire catalog of clothing being made by nearly 300 women.
They have also changed the way their consumers interact with the people who make their garments. Since each item is signed by the woman that made it, customers can write a thank you note to her. This is a revolutionary way to consume goods, and it is satisfying for both seamstress and customer. Perhaps if people could see the face of the women working in those South Asian sweatshops, they would feel differently about the shirt they bought from Forever 21 that likely will not hold up through the summer.
If consumers continue to use their wallet as a way to demand change, not only will companies like Krochet Kids grow another thirty times, but larger companies like Wal-Mart and GAP will be forced to make the changes that should have been made long before now.