Think of a recent compliment that you gave to a friend or a colleague? Think of something that did not involve the words, “I like your shirt?”, “where did you get that trouser from?” think of anything that you said, anything that had nothing to do with clothes, bags, shoes or makeup. It’s difficult, I myself am guilty of excluding the real, alive person from the compliments, praises are directed only towards the material objects.
The amount of money and time that goes into making and promoting unnecessary clothing items is astonishing, and as a cherry on top, the consumers of these products are breathtakingly enormous in number with little to none discernment. A lack of awareness among the buyers about the adverse effects of these “unstitched or pret lawn collections” has its origins in the carefully orchestrated need to possess as many new items as possible by the industry itself. Which leads us back to the topic of concern, what are the effects? The answer is three words, consumerism, abuse of labour and most importantly pollution.
Starting off from the pollution aspect, an ongoing debate, about the fashion industry being the world’s second most harmful polluters, is now emerging as a major concern for the geological future of the earth. One of the world’s most rapidly growing industries, the fashion business, stands next to the oil industry in polluting the environment. The toxins released from cloth factories and fabric manufacturing machines contribute to 20% of water pollution each year. This is an alarming fact, and not just in the European countries but in Pakistan as well. A fact to chew on; the manufacturing process of a single cotton t-shirt consumes about 2700 litres of fresh water, which equals to about three days of drinking water! Think of how much water the lawn industry must be consuming and polluting at the same time? The textile business assumes an unmistakable part in squander production as more significance is given to the sorts of texture, shading mix and colouring. This builds the heap and amount of the waste because of the different synthetic concoctions and procedures included. The key natural danger is caused when untreated wastewater is discharged directly into freshwater canals. With the alarming water crisis hoovering just above our heads, wastes such as this are only pushing the country down the drain. It’s about time that the public wakes up.
- Mistreatment of labour
Let us now shed light to another dark corner of this textile industry, the silent and underprivileged labourers of this million-dollar industry. From the factory workers to the craftsmen and tailors the labourers are exploited in various manners by the business owners. This industry thrives on contractual labour; a method of hiring labourers on the basis of a project by project payment system. The workers sign a legal contract which entails a set of rules and regulations to be followed by the worker but which generally works to the benefit of the employer only. This so-called “contract” then is not a contract at all in some cases. As the workers are hired through a private contractor and are not given an appointment letter of any sort making their appointment unreliable. Moreover, the working hours are tough and the pay is far less than deserved. A recent survey published in country’s leading newspaper highlights that an average worker at a textile industry only gets paid 400 to 500 rupees per day regardless of the hours he or she has worked, and, if we count the weekends and holidays, the monthly income amounts to 10,000 approximately. Imagine, can you raise a family of five to six members in ten thousand rupees all the while working your ass off? Yes, this is not fair and a major violation of human rights. How do the owners get away with this exploitation so easily? This leads us towards the next point of our discussion, Consumerism.
This term is frequently tossed around on various platforms and discussion forums but is seldom fathomed by the public. Consumerism, although widely perceived negatively is complex to understand. Upon breaking down the concept it can be concluded that it is an umbrella term for two major concepts: A) consumerism means that if a country consumes products, edible, wearable or of any other type, it can grow economically. B) the term is also credited with a perception that this theory promotes greed and encouages customers to buy extra products that they do not need. This is the definition which, for the sake of argument, we shall use.
The concept generally applies to the wealthier countries but it is overtaking the smaller, less developed countries such as Pakistan as well. We are well familiar with the economic situation of our country; the wealth and poverty juxtapose each other in such a way that in almost every part of the country there are people who can afford SUVs and people who barely have anything to eat. The class distinctions are clearly marked, and a growing middle class constantly strives to become a member of the rich, glamorous elite class. In an attempt to do so, they buy products which are associated with the bourgeois. The branded clothes, shoes and other things that are not necessary. This is how the exploitation of the workers who produced these products is ignored. It gets veiled by the glamour and glitz of the brand names and designer products. a constant demand for these goods keeps the matter buried and things go on without any hindrance.
So, while trying to fit in the glamorous world of growing fashion and striving to be a part of the hustling bustling crowd in bazaars and shopping malls, we sometimes forget the price our environment and working class has to. It is not a small price since it comes with an ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor and a geographical damage that probably cannot be undone.