On April 24th, 2013, one of the worst disasters in fashion history happened, the collapse of Rana Plaza. This building housed five garment factories making clothing for globally recognizable fashion brands.
Before this, you may not have thought about where and how your clothes were made and produced. This tragedy shed light on how hard people work to produce clothing you usually wouldn’t think twice about purchasing.
This tragedy finally awakened people to realize the horrific working conditions in developing and third world nations.
We used to wear our clothes for many years, buying staple pieces with longevity that we would be able to hold onto forever. With the introduction of fast fashion, we now want a new wardrobe every year and we want to pay much less for it. Companies like H&M and Mango need to keep their production costs down so that we can pay low retails, for example, $19.95 for a sweater. Western fashion brands expect their factories to rush new orders to meet the latest clothing trends.
These are low-skill jobs, and the industry relies on a low-wage labor force in order to manufacture their designs at the lowest cost possible. So in order to fulfill these orders quickly, factories often disregard safety and human costs. Workers often work long hours without even restroom or lunch breaks. Workplaces such as Rana Plaza often have poor ventilation, and ignore basic safety measures such as clear fire escapes.
Since I work on the production side of the fashion, I can understand negotiating lower prices on fabric and rushing orders to be in stores on time even though I do not work for a fast fashion brand; we work closely with all our factories. However, this does not mean that our factories do not hide certain conditions from our American counterparts who control the quality of the work conditions overseas. When these factories feel the pressure of meeting deadlines in order to make the money from an order, they can often times cut corners and ignore safe work conditions in order to get the job done, all while keeping up the facade of being a safe and law-abiding factory. This kind of deceitfulness is what can ultimately cause conditions to become worse and worse, eventually leading to tragedies such as the collapse of the Rana Plaza.