95% of all these high-street fashion clothing comes from ‘garment factories’ from India. Right in the slums of Mumbai. A BBC Three series which was broadcast in 2008, saw six young fashionistas travel all the way to India in order to discover where all these items of clothing were coming from.
They discover that working on the production lines is a tough challenge. Discipline is strict and rules cannot be broken; getting up without permission or talking to your friends is strictly forbidden. Targets and quotas must be met and those that do not make the grade get demoted from stitching to lower-status, less well-paid jobs, such as ironing and buttoning. In this first of four programs, the Brits also have to live in their fellow workers’ homes, in cramped conditions without basic facilities like hot water and western toilets.
I was just as shocked as they were, when i first saw the program, to see the conditions in which the workers were working. There was a time when my sister brought back gifts for all of us when she was living in UK. One of the t-shirts had a label saying ‘Made in India’ and we kidded around as to how she had been duped into thinking it was a ‘foreign brand’. But my mind wandered back to that same incident while watching this program. Not once did i give a thought as to where all these clothes i buy are made. I feel so foolish now that i had been naive enough to think that they are all made in some huge producion house abroad.
The backstreet factories of Dharavi, Mumbai is the largest slum in Asia. With open drainages, narrow streets, no toilet facilities, and severe public health issues, it has a population of 600,000 to over 1 million people.
Dharavi exports goods to all over the world, especially to the fashion hubs such as London and New York.
Workers working there get paid in peanuts. They work long hours in the most unhealthy surroundings. Child labour is involved. People get sick. They export garments which are then sold in high-street fashion boutiques which cost a bomb.
To think that all our clothes are being made there.
To think that children as young as 10 and 12 years are forced to work in those factories day and night.
To think that every time we walk into a mall and pay a thousand rupees ($20 approx) for a dress, the people who made it dont even get twelve rupees (much much less than a dollar)
On one hand it provides employment to so many people who would otherwise starve on the streets, turn to begging or get killed. On the other hand, they are not paid their worth and live in dire conditions.
There are a few organizations such as Creative Handicrafts which strive to counter this problem.
I only wish that more top brands would collaborate with such organizations for all their manufacturing needs and Strive to make a difference.