Is the Chinese fashion consumer rising in unison with sustainable fashion?
Are Chinese consumers most closely connected to the impacts of unethical fashion production?
From the West we can easily see the shocking images behind the ‘Made in China’ label.
But what can the consumer who lives so closely connected see?
Through geography and family ties, many Chinese consumers can easily relate to the real life stories from fashion’s Chinese garment workers effected by their unethical working conditions.
As exposed in books like ‘The China Price’ or under-cover investigations, the trend sees migrants from china’s rural areas flocking to work in shocking conditions in manufacturing cities, including those large garment producing hubs such as Guangzhou and Dongguang.
China is still the leading exporter in the global garment industry, with statistics showing more than 10 million people employed by the country’s garment manufacturers. Imagine the number of family members and friends affected by the stories these 10 million people bring home about their working conditions.
I sourced these statistics from a most recent report by an NGO based in Hong Kong called SACOM. Click here to read more, but some of the pictures taken under-cover show the Chinese garment worker lifestyle
The knitting Process
Dusty working conditions, sewage on floor in other photos
Sign showing fines workers are made to pay for not meeting outrageous targets, these workers are unrepresented by unions
Nobody wants to think of these images when shopping for their clothes, but in the West the thing is we are so distantly connected from imagining these conditions, not just geographically. The Chinese consumer, who is so importantly the focus of any luxury fashion brand’s attention right now, is emotionally connected through their own people to the consequences of unethical fashion.
Organisations like SACOM are producing evidence to warn their own consumers against global corporations like UNIQLO. The BCA (Beijing Consumer Organisation) have previously banned brands like Zara.
So why am I learning Chinese?
Fashion is desperate to understand the huge and increasing spending power of the Chinese consumer on a deeper level. But hearing their real stories about fashion and hearing from the ‘Made in China’ label, could be the key to helping really progress fashion’s sustainability issues with the world’s largest population behind us.