Where do your clothes come from?

Fashion, thoughts
Ask any 20-something fashion conscious girl (or boy for that matter) about her favourite brands and shops and you’ll most probably hear names like zara, forever 21, forever new and the likes. And for the really brand conscious.. well there is no dearth of top brands or designer wear here. But have you ever wondered where these clothes are made?

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.

 Workers working in the cramped factories 

A young girl carrying jeans from one of the factories

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.


16 thoughts on “Where do your clothes come from?

  1. It's very hard for us to realize how hard it is to gain socio-economic equality. Poor people are pushed towards poverty, cause in a profit conscious world, you need laborers.

    Great post. Following your blog.


  2. This is such an eye-opening post… And yet there are people who still won't believe it. I will always remember a girl I knew who worked for the Gap for years. This brand is as guilty as any other, if not more guilty, of exploiting workers in places like Dharavi… But they gave their employees strict training to the contrary, practically to the point of brainwashing! Good for you for writing this post; awareness is the best place to start 🙂


  3. Really bad!! what is the government doing? child labour is outlawed in our country so why arent they enforcing it??
    Lot of people out here are aware of these issues and dont buy stuff from certain brands. but we need a whole lot of awareness before companies stop doing this!


  4. @jahn –


    yes but thats no excuse… you need to give fair pay and proper working conditions.. that is a must.
    Thanks for following!

    I know.. People need to be made aware of where their high fashion clothes are coming from.

    @thesolitarywriter –
    thank you!


    its a tough situation.. yes…

    @cardinal ruby- thanks

    If only it was so easy to brainwash ppl.. you should have seen the show.. the guy had children as young as 10yrs working for him and when threatened by a social worker, he just laughed and lied to his face saying the child just 'hangs out here'.
    Too much! People's mindset needs to be changed first!
    But as you said, awareness is the best place to start.. thanks! 🙂

    @bollywoodstylediaries –
    yes exactly…


  5. Absolutely agree
    Fair trade should not be a rarity but a way of life
    I watched the program and thought it did really well at highlighting the outrageous conditions that people are forced to work in, but it's up to us to argue for change


  6. Hello! Very interesting post, I remember studying about this, and various cases came up of important brands like Gap and Nike being involved in hiring companies to manufacture their products, and these companies would be running sweat shops, exploiting workers. I think it's definitely a topic that must be addressed.


  7. @raji –
    i agree!

    @sampada –

    @titine and totoche-
    yes i know.. there are many big brands involved.. and yes definitely a topic to be addresses



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