The garment industry is the largest labour industry in the world, employing 1 in every 6 persons alive today. Over 85 per cent of those workers are women, with some of those being the lowest paid workers in the world.
As a result of globalised production, approximately 97 per cent of clothing manufacturing is outsourced to low cost economies, the majority of which are located in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Over the past 2 decades the price of clothing has dropped and the way that clothing is made has changed. The introduction of ‘fast fashion’ has seen the industry change from 2 to 4 seasons per year, to 52 seasons per year.
Demand has surged for cheaper and cheaper products that are consumed and disposed of at rapid rates. In order to meet this demand, conditions are sacrificed and corners are cut.
Low wages and unsafe conditions for garment workers are all excused due to the extreme need for jobs and work. This cycle persists due to the fear of losing business from large international brands. Workers are exploited and mass impoverishment prevails. These conditions have lead to the deaths of thousands of people in the garment industry, as was seen in the Bangladesh Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 killing 1,100 people.
‘Fast fashion’ has led to the clothing industry being the second most polluted industry on Earth – behind the oil and gas industry.
It is estimated that 80 billion new garments are produced worldwide each year. More than 2 million tonnes of textiles go to landfill every year, and only 10 per cent of clothing donated to charity is actually sold in thrift stores. Cotton produces the fibre used in most of the clothing made today. It takes 2720 litres of water to make one t-shirt. That’s how much a person normally drinks over a 3 year period. The increased use of pesticides in cotton farming has resulted in a myriad of devastating health complications for farmers and their families. The environmental and social impacts can no longer be ignored.
Lagom Studio is passionate about working with brands committed to improving both how clothing is made and the conditions for garment workers. As such, we exclusively seek to stock labels that meet a range of certified categories integral to the central ethos of Lagom Studio. When choosing a label to stock we look for a range of the following certifications and commitments including:
- Fair trade practices including appropriate employee benefits, entitlements and conditions as well as the absence of child labour
and forced labour;
- Use of natural, renewable materials including organic, up-cycled or recycled;
- Commitment to sustainable practices across energy, water and waste outputs
- Hand-crafted - supporting traditional artisan techniques and trades;
- Support of local economies;
- Transparency of supply chain;
- Commitment to non-discrimination, gender equity and freedom of association.
Not all classifications will be relevant to every label, so discretion is applied in choosing labels that share our core values.
So what do these commitments mean?
Fairtrade International provides that Fairtrade is a partnership between producers and consumers. When farmers can sell on Fairtrade terms, it provides them with a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade is about stable prices, decent working conditions and the empowerment of farmers and workers around the world. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping.
When a product carries the Fairtrade mark it means the producers and traders have met Fairtrade standards. We believe this is important in ensuring that workers and farmers in the supply chain are fairly compensated for their hard work.
Cotton is the fibre most commonly used in clothing manufacturing. Cotton farming is a highly pesticide-intensive crop. Cotton crops cover 2.5% of the world's agricultural land, yet consumes 25% of all insecticides and 10% of all pesticides used worldwide. Conventional cotton farming has severe environmental, health and social effects, particularly for farms in developing countries. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) provide that China, United States, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and West Africa account for over 75% of global production. Farmers in many of these regions suffer severe health issues as a result of inadequate safety precautions when handling hazardous chemicals.
Cotton farming also demands a high level of water usage. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), cotton's average irrigation requirement is 7.8 megalitres per hectare. To put this in context, WWF estimates that it can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton; equivalent to a single t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
The use of organic materials such as cotton ensures that the cotton has not been treated with harmful chemicals which are damaging to the environment as well as the farmers and workers involved in cultivating the crops. Organic cotton farming typically uses less water as the soil has more water retention capacity due to the presence of organic matter.
Upcycled and recycled materials are a means of diverting unwanted waste from landfill and reduce the need for new material production.
Mass produced clothing is often made in energy intensive factories using non-renewable energy sources and inadequate waste management. By choosing clothing from local designers, production processes are more tightly controlled and often carried out by small teams of people producing limited runs. The labels endorsed by Lagom that produce larger quantities are carried out in factories that commit to using renewable energy such as natural lighting and power produced by rice husks. Water and waste is managed through water recycling facilities; the limitation of water contamination through the use of chemical free dyes; and recycling offcuts to create other garments.
Many traditional garment techniques are becoming a dying trade. Quality garment production has been largely replaced with the quickest most time efficient techniques to satisfy the production of large quantities. This often results in poorly manufactured clothing. We would like to return the focus to supporting traditional artisans and trades that produce high quality garments that stand the test of time. Many of the labels we stock use local artisans and trades-people who construct pieces with durable and technically skilled methods. Some labels are even created entirely by hand from inception to the final product.
Supporting local economies
We believe it is important to support local skills and trades where possible, as support of smaller businesses helps improve competition in the market space and provide employment amongst local communities. We also find that smaller businesses sometimes provide greater transparency into their processes and operations.
We are particularly passionate about working with labels that provide full disclosure of practices from seed to garment. We believe it is important for labels to readily offer information about how their products are made and how materials are sourced, particularly if they brand themselves as ethical.
Worldwide, approximately 85% of garment workers are women. As such, issues affecting garment workers disproportionately impact on women.
Physical and sexual abuse as well as discrimination is rife towards women in the garment industry. A recent report produced by the women's rights group Sister's for Change and Bengaluru-based Munnade, estimated 60% of female garment workers faced intimidation and violence in 'hostile' workplaces. The report also highlights that 1 in every 7 women working in the garment industry in southern India have been raped or forced into a sexual act at work. Much of this behaviour continues due to the informal employment arrangements in large factories as well as a lack of legal protections; grievance mechanisms and appropriate regulation.
Many factories also prevent skill development of women, who are often required to complete basic stitching tasks, while higher technical skills such as cutting are done by men. Women also often lose employment once married or become pregnant, forcing them out of the labour force and limiting their opportunities.
We seek labels that work to support the empowerment of women in the garment industry, and ensure safe working conditions and adequate development opportunities.