For many years, the global textile industry has been an enormous blot on the ethicallandscape. The size and scale of it is hard for anyone to comprehend. Millions toil makingclothing in unholy conditions for extremely low pay. Many more work the cotton fields,picking and processing the heavily-sprayed cotton crop for a pittance.Once it has been used by our disposable British culture, most of this labour-intensiveproduct is turned into a waste problem in a landfill site. And it is truly a waste – a waste ofmillions of lives, a waste of resources to make and fuel to transport the finished productsaround the world and a toxic waste gift to future generations.In the UK, much has been made of the Organic and Fairtrade movements, with certainsectors of the textile industry racing to embrace the profits of being 'ethical' and 'green'.Whilst in some ways these are positive developments, in reality it translates into very slightripples in the great ocean which is the global textile industry. However much we might tryto hide from the reality, the system requires a large pool of poorly paid people to produceitems in poor countries to feed our endless appetite for new clothing at prices we canafford. Fairtrade certainly makes a measurable income difference to people in a small partof the supply chain, but can never force meaningful changes to workers throughout thesystem because consumers would never pay for the real costs required. Often a majorpart of the attraction for the large brands is that they can sell the items at a premium whichis out of proportion to the extra production costs involved. It also does nothing to addressthe wanton destructive force of the global textile industry. We fool ourselves into believingthat a few extra pennies to the producer does anything more than paper over the structuralproblems that we would rather not think about.
We have to reinvent the process so it provides for our clothing needs in asustainable future
At some point we have to rethink fashion. We have to reinvent the process so that itprovides for our clothing needs in a more sustainable future. In this paper, we will arguethat there is an alternative which few have so far examined. We will further argue that theanswers lie in front of us and that the moral imperative is within each of us and not in somedistant forgettable land.