Have you ever wondered why we are able to buy our glitzy clothes at a low price?
Enter the world of outsourcing. On its own, it’s not a destructive force; after all, it is considered to be one of the unavoidable realities of a highly connected world. Think of it in terms of your clothing: Instead of trying to procure and produce everything on your own, you procure 50% of your materials from country A, then get the other half from country B, produce them in tax-friendly country C, and distribute them afterward through an efficient and cost-friendly network of ships and air-based cargo. In other words, you distribute your workload across multiple external providers so that you get the best possible profit and the lowest possible selling price for your product.
This, in turn, allows you to improve your focus and proficiency on your core business capabilities, as well as gain maximum efficiency, increased reach, lesser costs, and better leverage, especially when it comes to penetrating new markets. As a result of these above advantages, outsourcing is considered to be one of the most ideal business solutions for the fast fashion industry. Not only does it allow them to leverage and engage with economies of scale, but it also enables these companies to generate higher profit margins and deliver an uninterrupted flow of items to their respective customers.
However, some of the things that make outsourcing an enticing prospect for the sector also turn it into a source of endless nightmares for the people who work under these outsourcing entities.
For instance, there are supposed to be laws, regulations, and guidelines that ensure the protection and uplifting of workers’ rights on paper. These include occupational safety regulations, rules regarding salaries, workloads, and breaks, as well as items that pertain to the empowerment of workers in general.
Unfortunately, since 70-90% of the total workforce inside these industries relies on cheap, unskilled labor, women laborers, and child workers, there have been huge difficulties in implementing humane working conditions for the people working in these factories. Couple this with the fact that most of these people do not have the necessary education and literacy skills to stand up for their rights, and you’ll see why the outsourcing companies in the fast fashion industry generally get away with murder, both literally and figuratively.
One other point to be mentioned is the fact that companies prefer outsourcing in order to allow them to incur fewer costs while producing higher outputs at the same. In the first place, this is the reason why inhumane practices are taking place: The first priority of managers in an outsourcing company that has unskilled workers is not their social welfare but meeting production targets. After all, the
In connection with this, given the fact that most outsourcing countries are found in third world countries that usually have weak judicial and porous political institutions, managers can simply make governments and regulators look the other way around by paying huge bribes, lavishing them with gifts, or giving big amounts of money to their respective national treasuries. To add to this, knowing that most of their workers do not have better work options in their home countries, managers can simply replace errant and rebellious workers with ones that would comply with their unsavory labor practices at the same costs.
The reality of it all is that while these fast fashion goods are made cheap and fast, they do not usually carry the best standards of quality and safety that are applicable when one produces the same fashion items in an artisan way.
On one side of the coin, products usually end up either being discarded or sold as “overruns” due to the fact that they do not usually meet the quality required for them to be sold at retail stores worldwide. As a matter of fact, you can go out on a normal weekday night at a local market in a typical Asian country and see these clothes being sold at 30-40% less than their suggested retail price (SRPs).
On the other side of it all, consumers usually do not want to wear these products – it is already a commonly accepted fact that only 60% of clothes that are sold through retail outlets are worn by people all over the world. Since we already talked about safety, it is already known that many of these clothes, especially the ones sold at the lower end of the fast fashion price spectrum, can contain dangerous substances such as lead and arsenic.
I know that many of the above points make for sobering and depressing reading. Personally, I also wear fast fashion, though I do my best to buy clothes that are sourced locally, thus supporting the local economy. Alternatively, I buy them from companies who try to provide proper salaries to their workers and carry a certain level of institutional and actual quality – at least, I can safely and comfortably wear these clothes knowing that I exerted all my efforts to find the best options for myself.
Nowadays, as many of us are still able to grab disposable income through stimulus checks, social welfare, local entrepreneurship, or by working multiple jobs, we as consumers have the chance to redefine the way that we wear these fashion items. Since many of us are also avid gamers and users of social media anyway, why not support the proliferation and adoption of digital clothing and NFT-based clothing technologies such as Digitalax?
Have we been aware of these predator practices before?
If not, can we still wear fast fashion in a comfortable way? Can we still look at the clothes that we wear in the same way as we looked at them before?
I do not think so. Since we are now armed with the knowledge of the realities behind outsourcing in the fashion industry, we should do our best to make informed decisions about the things that we wear every single day of our lives.
After all, it’s not just a piece of cloth.