Can there be equality in fashion?
Is equality in fashion possible? We look at the top 4 inequality issues of the fashion industry.
Back in 2016 I watched The True Cost (of Fashion) and swore I would never buy anything from fast-fashion again. I was so scared from the images I saw of collapsed buildings, where minutes before workers in Bangladesh had been working for big US retailers. I decided right then and there to not buy clothes for a whole year.
Early last year a story broke that the same garment workers were not being compensated due to COVID-19 cancelled orders. Once again, decisions made a world apart had real life implications for communities in the developing world. Not only is the fashion industry the second most contaminating industry in the world, in terms of human rights and social equality the industry has a long way to go.
Believe it or not, slavery is common in the fashion world. There can be forced labor in any part of the supply-chain, from the workers that harvest raw materials to the workers that sew the garments together. In 2018, the Global Slavery Index reported that $127.7 billion worth of garments are made with modern slavery. How is this possible?
Part of the reason that slavery can occur in the fashion industry is because of the lack of transparency in supply-chains. Supply-chains can be difficult to track and keep in check, especially as businesses scale and outsource their production. That is why we keep our production in the US, so that we can continue to track our supply-chain and make changes as necessary. Fair wages become an equality issue when workers are not compensated or are compensated differently due to their perceived importance to the bottom-line. A good example of this would be the pay gap between an entry person in the design team versus the marketing team.
Gender-based discrimination is also common in the fashion industry, but not talked as much. Although the fashion industry is disproportionally aimed at women, a small percentage of women make it to the room where it is decided what we get to wear (Victoria Secret was run by a man until last year). Only 14 percent of major brands are run by female executives. And while female CEOs are few and far between, female CEOs are more likely to be fired, that’s 45% more likely to be precise, compared to their male counterparts. Experiences like Outdoor Voices come to mind...
Another aspect of inequality in this industry, is having equal access to clothing. We should all have the chance to attend an interview wearing and feeling our best. If we fail to make clothing accessible for everyone, regardless of socio-economic standing or ability, then we are denying a substantial group of the population their chance at social mobility and improving their quality of life. Aside from workwear, we need to cater to everyone’s needs regardless of circumstance. That is why we are committed to making swimwear with the input of women that have different bodies, so that everyone can experience the therapeutic element of being close to a body of water regardless of how they look.
We will never experience equality unless each and every single one of us goes out of our way to understand the experience of others. I understand that being able to learn and sit with the experience of others is a privilege. You don’t get to carry the true weight of the experience and it surely does not make you an expert. But it does however provide you, even if for a brief moment, a chance to sympathize with feelings and situations that are foreign to you. We believe that only by doing this exercise, will we be able to make more egalitarian decisions that can bring about real change.
At MIGA Swimwear, we are doing our part to make sure everyone is compensated for and are working tirelessly to cater to more and more women (plus-sizing is a 2021 goal). Don’t underestimate the power that you, the customer, has to bring about real change in the fashion industry, or any industry for that matter.