“This is a story about clothing. The clothes we wear, the people who make these clothes and the impact that it’s having on our world. It’s a story about greed and fear, power and poverty.”
And so begins The True Cost, the 2015 documentary that exposed the horrific reality of the global fashion industry and its supply chain.
WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
In just the last 50 years or so, we have seen a massive revolution in the way the fashion industry operates. As recently as the 1960s, Western countries such as the US were making around 95% of their own clothes locally. Flash forward, to 2015, and that number is down to just 3%. The rest of production has been outsourced - to the ever-struggling developing world. The ever-struggling developing world, where workers are paid less than $1 a day. The ever-struggling developing world, where the pressure of Western companies has led to safety measures being compromised, minimum wage laws ignored, and workers being forced to risk their very lives just to get through the day. Just to make ends meet. And all of this, for one simple reason: profit.
Cheaper production means fast fashion companies are able to rapidly increase the dollars they are making off sales, as well as push product through the market faster than ever before. This is what has made way for this whole new model known as Fast Fashion; a model which has, almost overnight, transformed the way clothing is bought and sold.
“The global marketplace is some place where we export work to have happen in whatever conditions we want and then the products come back to me cheap enough to throw away without thinking about it.”
Already, in the short life of the fast fashion industry, so many have already suffered so much - the people, the industry and the environment. Not only are these outsourced garment workers working for a horrifyingly low wage, with their very safety is constantly under threat, but the nature of their work has led to massive environmental and widespread health effects in their countries.
“This enormous rapacious industry…. That is generating so much profit for a handful of people… why is it that it is unable to support millions of its workers? Why is it that it is unable to guarantee their safety? Their health?”
Three worst fashion industry disasters…
- Tazreen Fashion Fire - 112 dead
- Ali Enterprises Fire - 289 dead
- Rana Plaza Collapse - 1,129 dead
Every day, more than 50 million liters of toxic wastewater pour out local tanneries in Kanpur, India…
As result, 70 to 80 children in each village you will find that suffering severe mental retardation and physical disabilities...
More than 250 000 recorded farmer suicides in India in the last 16 years… That's about one farmer every 30 minutes.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
“What we need to do is turn all consumers into activists, all consumers asking ethical questions, all consumers asking quite simple questions about where their clothes are from… all consumers saying: "I’m sorry, it is not acceptable for someone to die in the course of a working day".”
As the customer, you have a tremendous amount of power. You are in charge. Without you, the people in this industry - corporations included - have no jobs. They have no power. And that's really important, because it means that you do not have to buy into it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy into it. Your choice - your opinion - matters.
In the modern world, you have access to all the information you need to make educated decisions about where and from whom you buy from. Whilst you have the constant pressure of fast fashion and advertising, you must also remember, that’s not all you have: you also have a market of independent, local designers at your fingertips. Local creators that are working hard to create a more ethical, sustainable world. Local designers who, with your voice and with your choices, you can choose to support.
“We can’t just roll over and say. "Yeah, go do whatever you want." It is too important, the industry is too important. It has too much impact and effect on millions of people around the world.”
WHAT WE’RE DOING.
Sustainability and ethics in the industry is not only your job, it’s our job too. It is our job as designers, creators and entrepreneurs to be more conscious of how and where we produce our products; as artists, we need to be more connected to the people who are contributing to our vision.
Kortni Portia is proud to be part of a new generation of designers and consumers that are becoming more consciously aware of our impact on the earth and its people. Kortni is passionate about doing her part as a designer to bring about a heightened sense of awareness in the industry. Our products are manufactured locally to provide you, our customers, with top quality, timeless made to order designs that will last. Kortni Portia has also recently teamed up with an online retailer Stride who showcases Australia's best ethical and sustainable brands.
We believe in a better world. A world where we can have the fashion we love, but without the awful cost. And we know that you do too. We are the change, and collectively... the new movement.
“In the midst of all the challenges we face today, all the problems that feel bigger than us and beyond our control, maybe we could start here:
By Samantha Haran