I had a lot of responses from my story around the plight of the Indian migrant workers 2 weeks ago. It was so sad but necessary for me to write, just to share with people what is going on over here as I feel a lot of it has been missed as things in almost every part of the world are so bad right now. If you missed it you can read the article on my journal here.
As with everything now, I am trying to take these challenges in my stride and find a way to turn them into a positive. To share them with people, so that we might all learn from them and then, and I hope, to make some small difference going forward. So with that in mind, it is time to #payup, a growing movement and initiative some of you might have seen online recently.
With stores closing, people losing their jobs, and indeed even entire countries closing down - business has come to a complete halt. Almost all of us are suffering in some way and facing new economic struggles and setbacks. As you could imagine, developing nations that produce clothes for large western companies, in particular, are struggling - especially India, Bangladesh, and China. Some estimates suggest that in Bangladesh alone $3B USD of orders have been canceled.
In fashion, the general buying pattern much like business, in general, gives a lot more power and discretion to the larger buying organisations and companies. This takes the form of not only substantial discounts (think a pair of jeans for $1 USD), to favorable terms and delayed payments. So, unfortunately, in instances like we are experiencing right now, many to most of the large companies are canceling their orders - further exasperating the already debilitating effect shutdowns are having on migrant workers. Orders, often confirmed 9 months in advance, may have already had fabric purchased, been cut and prepared, been packed and ready, been shipped and en route, and in some cases even have been received and have been actively sold! All this with the factories that produce them (and thus there workers however underpaid they might be) left with nothing.
All businesses are struggling right now, but if these are the actions or mindsets of the largest companies, then how are the micro-companies, like mine, going to be impacted or expected to act? I work on my line from 9-12 months in advance, and as I produce only with natural goods and fabrics available easily in India I use almost exclusively cotton and lightweight natural fabrics, so for me, the Spring/Summer market is by far the most important time for me.
And whilst I produce the majority of my own line myself, and manage and treat my employees fairly, up to as many of half of the retail stores that I work with and whom I make literally custom orders for are highly at risk of closing or may have already closed. Every direct customer we work with has been affected in some way. But I am still trying to work, to share stories and my process with you, to #payitforward, and if possible to bring a small spark of joy or hope to those who read this. And I can only do that by continuing, to continue to create and design, to honor my commitments and pay my workers, to produce and ship, and to hope for the best.
So what can you do to help?
Here are my tips:
- Follow people like @mrspress - who has been conducting a series of podcasts and interviews talking about issues like this and the impact. And what we can do to help and take action against it. Petitions and letting your voice be heard helps.
- Watch movies like True Cost, which talks about the fast fashion and mass production issues so you can understand that your purchases do in fact make a difference and that you do have a voice. https://truecostmovie.com/
- And consider what you buy, where it comes from, and what is the true cost of that is really the most important part. Whilst we might all love a cheap purchase, if we can all make considerate and measured purchases, buying less but of better and longer-lasting quality, it will make a difference - if only one person at a time.
If we all do the right thing, we can get through this. And if we all consider how we live and what we do, and how we can learn and improve from this horrible situation, then we can make a bigger difference and hopefully make an improvement for our world when things get better.
Together, we can get through this, and together we can make a difference.