Are garment workers at risk as garment factories reopen post-#COVID-19?

From the cream of the fashion world to the commercialized mass acquainted fast fashion houses, owing to the pandemic that has taken the world by storm, the very nooks and crannies of these ever so profitable enterprises’ supply chains have now been struck to what fashionistas’ across the globe would refer to as a fashion ‘faux pas’. This has vaguely disrupted the once cordial relationships of both suppliers and consumers and has in turn ironed out revenue and growth wrinkles on the faces of many fashion brands.

The meltdown from the heat of this sudden and rampant change was felt the most by fast fashion houses across the globe. Gone are the days of Ariana Grande’s, ‘I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it’ notion that is particularly the ideology of these fast fashion houses, whose concept solely relies on consumers buying in volumes. With innumerable drops in sales, everyone’s beloved fast-fashion retailers across the globe such as Zara and H&M have been enforced to bolt their doors shut due to stagnantly low-profit margins recorded during this time of distress as the whole world grapples with Covid.

Although online sales have been the talk of the town, most customers haven’t switched with any enthusiasm.

Inditex, the owner of fashion retailer Zara, reported a staggering 31% fall in sales as the crisis bought upon by the coronavirus kept the consumers from indulging in shopping sprees at city center districts across the globe, despite this massive fall, the brand managed to return to quarterly profit in a span of three months from May to July, though still down by 11% gap from last year (Dowsett, 2020).

With the digital industry booming in the wake of the pandemic, and online sales being the talk of the town, most customers haven’t switched with any enthusiasm.

As compared to the vivid periods of 2019 where taking a stroll along the shopping mall with your friends and finding that cute top that Kylie Jenner had recently sported at your regular Forever 21 was a normality, fast forward to 2020, where people cannot solely rely on walking into a store and filling a basket, which is vaguely what the concept of fast fashion is, hence, profit margins are on the down-low as fast fashion does not do well with online shopping.

To add to this mountain of headache for the fashion retailers, it has also been reported that sales online have been nearly flat as compared to 2019 (Baum, Brown, Gerstell, and Peng, 2020). With less demand noticed in the stores, retailers are hugely adapting to offering generous discounts on everything as a means of last measures, therefore, elevating the problem of low-profit margins. For our everyday fast fashion outlets, 2020 has been a dilemma that we are only beginning to recover from.

With fast fashion retailers bracing these challenges at the front of the chain, behind the making of our hottest fashion staple of the month, lay the cruel realities being faced by suppliers and workers who work hand in hand to provide us with that fashion staple. There have been countless accusations and documentaries in the past that have brought to light about the many adversities faced by garment factory workers from various Asian countries, who are treated poorly and our denied regular paychecks by big global fashion houses. One of the countries that have always been in the spotlight for being affected prior to the pandemic and at an even higher scale now is Bangladesh where 85% of its export include fashion goods (Teodoro and Rodriguez, 2020).

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