I have been involved in the textile industry in one form or another since the late 1980’s and in that time I have seen many changes. If you have any connection with the UK textile industry then the biggest change was the decision of some retailers to go off shore in the early 90’s. This opened up the industry to a whole new set of challenges which it seems thirty years later the industry still cannot solve. The picture at the top of the piece is taken from a story about Syrian refugee children working in Turkish textile companies for so called ‘fast fashion’ brands. It reads like something from a by gone age with children working in factories in poor conditions, There is another link here to a buygone age of Victorian England
It refers to child workers being beaten and bullied by the Victorian England Mill owners/ managers, see if you can spot the difference between the two stories.
Has the textile industry learnt anything in the last 100 plus years? or are we simply repeating the “crimes” on the other side of the planet? Retailers tell us constantly that their roadmaps and initiatives are helping to improve the situations, but we have had 30 or more years of this and still news of industry related deaths and poor working conditions, employee abuses, seem to be a weekly occurrence
No doubt the PR departments at the retailers named and shamed will be earning their money this week as they try to spin the situation in the Turkish factories. Sadly this is all it seems to be, a PR exercise, there is no real desire for change, quite simply because the consumer, you and me, does not want to spend anymore for our textiles and while we demand cheap product, the brands will squeeze the manufacturers for lower and lower prices and the people at the bottom of the chain, the workers, the children will suffer. You could argue that if the brands paid more this would not affect the conditions even the smallest amount with the factory owners simply lining there own pockets and this might be true, but it seems to me that whatever is going on at the moment is not working.
Textiles has always been an innovative industry leading the world and growing economies, it seems to have lost its way and needs to be got back on track quickly, its going down a very bad road at the moment and I hope someone will tear up their ROADMAP and finally do something meaningful…