The last year has been surreal to say the least. It has been hard on many people, with loved ones being lost and loss of jobs. Most industries had to adapt for survival including fashion. I did not want to come off as tone deaf when starting my business in the middle of the pandemic, but I was holding off on this for a very long time. There is so much uncertainty around Covid, I said I had nothing to lose and just went for it. I could launch my business online, which has become the new norm for shoppers and may be the future of shopping. Online has become a huge selling platform for fashion consumers during the past year, which is positive for the most part, however, might not be all what it seems. The following article figures and stats are sourced from open access government. Let's get into how Covid has impacted the fashion industry.
We have seen a number of retailers close, production has ceased and demand has plummeted. Workers have been exploited for this reason. Can you remember during last summer when online giant Boohoo.com were outed for paying less than the minimum wage £3.50 to be precise in their Leicester factory?
After this became public, they lost £1 billion in value. An employee at Boohoo said people are working so closely together and they are “breathing in each other’s faces” due to the lack of space. The worker added: “There’s 1000 plus staff, if one person gets it there, then we all will. They think we are essential and that people need clothes, but that’s not the case. They keep putting sales on to boost their sales. That’s not looking out for people that’s just rubbing salt into the wound”.
Unfortunately high-street shops like H&M have announced that they are closing 70% of their stores worldwide. Fast fashion online retailers have now been accused of using sales as a tactic to lure in more customers during lockdown. Many brands websites show sales with up to 70% off items. As they are based online, they cannot come under fire for keeping their stores open, but this does not mean their workers aren’t still working in warehouses and many issues have been raised with this.
Terrified ASOS workers said they felt ‘like rats’ in a warehouse they have branded a ‘cradle of disease’ in a recent survey by the GMB Union. The survey carried out by GMB showed that 98% of the 4,000 Grimethorpe ASOS workers felt unsafe at work. In reality, where other retailers have shut down business to keep their workers safe, ASOS has reportedly ramped up their operations in Barnsley.
The fashion industry in Bangladesh
Did you know that Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest apparel exporter of western fast fashion brands? A report by Bloomberg found that an estimated 1,089 garment factories in Bangladesh have had orders cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, costing roughly $1.5 bn.
Some factories in Bangladesh have been shut down indefinitely. A few workers were given less than a month’s salary as compensation but many others received nothing at all. Thousands of garment workers have recently returned to work across Bangladesh amid the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown as factories begin to reopen to resume production. However, this has gone against advice from the Ministry of Health, raising concerns over the risk of infection to both workers and communities.
This unique set of circumstances can hopefully bring about a positive change in the fashion industry that has been needed for years. The fashion industry makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions as well as dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams.
Learning about the dark areas of the fashion industry definitely have impacted on my corporate morals when first creating HannahMaria Shanahan. Now more than ever, it is so important to be ethical. Be responsible for the people who help and make your business what it is. Be mindful when shopping online, are they ethical? Do they pay their staff? Are their staff working in good conditions? It is hard to believe when the world is in a crisis, people take advantage of other humans in an inhumane way. Hopefully, things will change in the fashion industry and I am positive they will.