Tuesday 26 February 2019

dress smart

Once again a report from the major charity Oxfam reminds fashion consumers that their purchasing decisions matter when it comes to the exploitation of 3rd world workers in the clothing industry

Sydney Morning Herald

Oxfam Made in Poverty report

Why do I care?
The globalisation of the clothing manufacturing industry affected my work and income in the 1990s. I was a sewing outworker working from home supporting my son and I from that work. As an immigrant from New Zealand I wasn't able to claim any social security benefits from the Australian govt for 10 years so if I wasn't able to work there was no falling back on any hardship pensions from the govt.

Here is a paragraph excerpt from something I'm writing about my life

I emigrated to live in Australia in 1986 with my 6 year old son and worked from home doing sewing outwork with an occasional contract for patternmaking. This work supported us for almost the next decade. Regrettably the 1990s was the beginning of the end of the home sewist contractor. The clothing industry was going global as protectionist regulations that had existed for decades were removed and local manufacturers moved their work overseas where they could employ workers in 3rd world countries for a tiny percentage of what local workers were paid. By the mid 1990s I had to throw my hands up in despair as I could no longer make a living wage. I’d been working 10-12 hours on piecework and only earning $40-50 a day. At one stage I was getting paid $5.50 per dress for a designer dress that was retailing for $195. This dress took 1 ½ hours to sew and each one had to be returned steam pressed and bagged to the factory. It was the end of being my own sweatshop slave as the future for home sewing outwork became unsustainable economically. I was only one of tens of thousands of home based workers and small workshops that had to shutter up as we competed for less and less work.

I'm not suggesting you should stop buying clothes at the stores that source their products from overseas. I'm just urging you to cultivate awareness of how your buying power can directly affect the lives of the real people (mostly women) who labour full time with their hands to make an income not sufficient for dignity or their needs. Investigate where the clothes are being made and find out what that stores/companies policies are to support their overseas workers. Make decisions not to buy the products if you feel uncomfortable about the situations of their production.

What you buy is an ethical decision because:
1) your purchase helps that company make a profit and encourages them to maintain their manufacturing source
2) the reason some clothes are "cheap" is due to the workers who actually make them with their hands and sweat only getting a tiny proportion of the making cost.
3) the "real" costs of production have been obscured up until the present day because it has been politically unpalatable to factor in the costs to the environment, such as water, the chemicals applied to keep the soil artificially productive, the costs of mechanisation and the polluting side effects of the fuel used to cultivate and move the product sometimes tens of thousands of miles from its site....The world is in the beginning stages of experiencing what the real cost has been as our climate changes irrevocably.

Choose and buy wisely. Don't clothe yourself with the Emperors duds...

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you are interested in buying an artwork or booking a commission, please email me at pearl@upstairs-art.com.au