The pandemic has exposed extreme fragility of the fashion industry. However, it has also sharpened focus on negligent supply chains and business operations, some glaring facts should concern global citizens, says a report by Quint. To bring the industry out of the COVID-19 mess, the International Labor Organization has introduced a non-binding ‘COVID-19 Action Plan’ for the garment industry. The plan emphasizes on open communication with suppliers, support for factories and payment for finished and partially-finished goods.
It is common for garment factories to make their workers work overtime and deny even a minute’s relief from work. Research by Indonesia’s Sedane Labor Resource Centre shows, garment factory workers are being forced to produce 80 to 90 pieces every 23 minutes. A report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation also indicates, Indian female factory workers are being given unmarked pills to help with period.
New initiatives to promote stronger supply chains
Concerned over abysmal working conditions, fashion advocates have launched the #WhoMadeMyClothes initiative to promote a stronger fashion supply chain. Industry leaders such as Giorgio Armani and Ellen MacArthur have also voiced their support for slow fashion. Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the Make Fashion Circular initiative that is being upheld by brands such as GAP, Burberry, H&M, Nike, and Stella McCartney. The initiative promotes clothes recycling and use of renewable clothing materials.
One of the world’s most commonly worn garments, cotton T-shirts require around 3,250 liter water for one single piece, which according to the World Wildlife Fund, is equal to three years of drinking water. On the other hand, a leather shoe requires four times the amount of water required by a cotton T-shirt while a pair of jeans requires 3 times.
Call for consumer participation
As per the Quint report, consumers can help fashion industry to slow down its activities by investing in good quality clothes and preserving them for a longer period. This will help the industry reduce garment’s water footprint by around 10 per cent.
Consumers can also reduce water pollution by buying only certified organic cotton clothes or those made using waterless dyeing techniques and low-impact dyes. Additionally, they can use eco-friendly clothing materials such as bamboo or hemp to help save 50 per cent of water usage.
Beyond extending an identity, the pandemic offers the industry an opportunity to streamline its current practices and promote sustainable supply chains. To triple its current bottom line, the industry needs to invest in creating a sustainable fashion future.