Where do fashion brands manufacture their products

Where do our clothes come from?

We have clothes shops like a dime a dozen. At H&M and Zara there are new bargains every week. But how can it actually be that things are so cheap?

Buy without thinking

When it comes to the consumption of clothes, Germans are at the forefront of the world. No wonder when you consider how cheaply we can shop for clothes almost anywhere and at any time. At H&M, Primark and Zara, new collections land in stores week after week at unbeatable prices. There is a huge selection of T-shirts, pants and dresses there - so cheap that most people just buy them without thinking about whether they really need the new clothes. And so a new item always ends up in the closet.

Most people have more clothes than they need. So it happens that on average every 5th item of clothing is left unworn at home! And because the wardrobe bursts at the seams with so many purchases, things that are no longer pleasing are regularly sorted out and thrown away. This short life in our closets, however, has pretty dire consequences.

Fast fashion has its price

Fast fashion is the name of the principle by which textile companies are constantly bringing new collections into the shops in order to lure buyers into the shops as often as possible. There is always a new bargain waiting there.
However, if you take a look at the little piece of paper inside the clothes, there are often sentences like "Made in Bangladesh", "Made in Cambodia" or "Made in India". Sure, the cheap stuff has to come from somewhere. There, however, workers sew clothes for many western textile companies under catastrophic conditions: they sit at the sewing machines for 10 to 12 hours a day and get very little money for it. The average monthly salary of a seamstress in Bangladesh is around 60 euros. That makes an hourly wage of 20 cents. In other countries it looks a little better, but still the same. Logical, because otherwise the cheap prices of the clothes wouldn't come about.

Bad conditions in the factories

To ensure that the clothes are ready for dispatch on time, many seamstresses have to work in the textile factories until midnight. However, these factories are often in very poor condition. The buildings are not safe: they are fragile or do not have enough emergency exits. In 2013 there was a major factory disaster in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh. Because of its poor condition, a factory collapsed and more than 1,100 people were killed. Companies like KiK and Mango had their products manufactured in Rana Plaza.
After this event, conditions in many factories improved, but are still often poor. In addition, many workers hardly have a chance to defend themselves against these conditions. Just two years ago, around 2,000 workers were laid off after demonstrations in Bangladesh. Some no longer get a job anywhere. The fact that the working conditions are so bad is very bad for many seamstresses. Often they need money and have no choice but to expose themselves to these dangers. Most of the big textile companies don't care and they take advantage of the situation of the seamstresses. Very few of them have so far significantly improved the situation on site.

Child labor in the textile industry

In many countries, including Bangladesh and India, children also have to work in the textile factories. Children who are ten years or younger are already employed there. They work in factories instead of going to school. Almost half of the over 14-year-olds in Bangladesh work in the textile factories. In the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, two out of three girls work in the textile industry. Many girls also work in the factories in South India. Once you have signed the contract, you are forced to work there for at least 3 years. The working conditions are very bad. You hardly have any breaks and there is very little to eat.

Bad for the environment

Many items of clothing are made from fabrics such as cotton. However, the cultivation of cotton and other natural fibers is often very harmful to the environment. Large amounts of pesticides are used in cultivation, which pollute lakes and rivers. In addition, an extremely large amount of water is required: around 7,000 liters (approx. 47 bathtubs) of water are used to produce a single pair of jeans. Chemicals also pollute wastewater in the manufacture of man-made fibers (such as polyester). Chemicals are also used to dye and print clothing, many of which are toxic. They can often be found in rivers around the factories.

You can do that:

Despite all this stupid news, of course you don't have to go without dressing up nicely. Try ‘like this instead:

1. Only buy what you really need. Think about whether a part is really necessary or whether you already have something similar in your closet. Also consider whether you really like the piece or whether you are actually just chasing a trend.

2. Buy second hand. Better than buying new is of course to look for new treasures in second-hand shops and flea markets. The great thing: There you will find real bargains and special items that don't hang in everyone's closet. It's also great fun and saves you money!

3. Make new out of old! Just do things yourself. You don't have to be able to sew for this. It is enough to be a little creative. For example, you can turn long pants into short ones by cutting them off. Or, like here, you can turn a t-shirt into a bag without further ado.

4. Fair fashion. There are not only the big chains like H&M and C&A, but also many great, small companies that produce clothes, shoes and bags in a fair and environmentally friendly way. Often they even make the things themselves in Germany and Europe! Just do a little research on the internet to find out what great shops there are in your city. To do this, you can enter “Faire Mode in (your city)” in the search engine. But of course fair fashion also has its price and is therefore not cheap.

Important to know is also that not all garments from India, China and Bangladesh were sewn in poor conditions. On the contrary! There are also small companies there that produce fair fashion. Unfortunately, it is often the large textile chains that still exploit many people and do not have to change their conditions because politicians and consumers are hardly interested here.

Where are you shopping? Do you have any other tips for more conscious shopping? Write a comment!