You've probably been in this position before: you're at a clothing store, and you find that piece of clothing that will fill in the gap in your closet. It's the right color, it fits you, and look at this price tag - will wonders never cease?
This is a crucial moment. You're about to make a decision about whether or not to purchase this item. Then you wonder - how can this be so cheap?
When clothing is cheap, there are a couple scenarios that could be in play: the company who makes it might have a really economical philosophy about clothing that leads them to cut the middle man out, keep operating costs low, or to sell with a low profit margin. That could be the case, but in many cases, it isn't.
Often the scenario is more nefarious and shows that companies are more concerned about their bottom line than acting humanely and treating others with dignity.
This starts in the supply chain. Cotton is often farmed using slave labor, underpaid laborers, and child labor. Many fabrics are made in factories with horrible working conditions, often dangerous and unhealthy. Not only that, but workers are paid a pittance for their time, if anything, and often beaten or verbally abused.
Then we move to manufacturing, where the people who sew clothing are often working for low or no wages. The same appalling practices many companies tolerate in their supply chain exist in their manufacturing practices. This is often the case with companies whose clothing is produced in other countries. The out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and therefore out-of-conscience mentality is at play here.
So we're back at the store, wondering who made this shirt we really want to buy and wondering if it matters if we spend petty cash on something that wasn't made with dignity. Does it really matter? Few bucks here, a few bucks there; we didn't make the choice to pay people poorly and to rob them of their dignity.
But this is where we make the decision about what kind of person we want to be: if we want to be a champion for the exploited or oppressed, we should ask - #whomademyclothes? as Fashion Revolution does every year. We may not get an answer, and maybe it means we buy fewer clothes because we spend a bit more on clothing from companies we know treat their employees with dignity, all the way through the supply chain.
It might mean we put that shirt back on the rack and choose a brand we know is dignified.