Critical nuances for effectively advocating change in the fashion industry.

Want to learn more? This animated video covers many of the points in this article in more detail.

1. “We need more accurate forecasts.”

As a garment factory manager, I hated being audited for due diligence. Here’s what I wish social compliance auditors had asked me about instead.

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What is due diligence?

Factory costs are driven by deviations from forecast. And it’s the fact that suppliers disproportionately bear the financial risk for these deviations that leads to workers being squeezed.

Check out this animated explainer version of the article, too 😊

The litmus test for knowing whether an intervention fundamentally transforms the incentives is simple: will it systematically guarantee that the losses associated with unsold products are distributed equitably?

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Oversight won’t change the fact that the fashion industry (as it exists today) needs a workforce capable of cheaply expanding and contracting. Better protecting the rights of workers requires talking about subcontracting as the systemic problem that it is.

Screen Printing Subcontractor in Phnom Penh

If we’re serious about making the fashion industry more just, we must stop relying on a one-size-fits all explanation for why manager-worker relations can become contentious.

Photo by Aok Samnak

The tone of a recent New York Times report implicating apparel manufacturer TAL Apparel in alleged forced labor is inadvertently misleading. At best, it oversimplifies a complex problem, and at worst, it obscures the path forward for effectively preventing forced labor in fashion supply chains.

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The allegations

What can we do to dismantle structurally racist approaches to sustainability? If we’ve benefited from race, class, or gender privilege: what are our implicit biases? How have we built these into our sustainable fashion solutions, policies, and institutions?

What implicit racial biases do sustainable fashion advocates have?

How the language of sustainable fashion obscures asymmetrical power relations and limits our ability to push for meaningful change.

How can the industry talk about equal partnership when suppliers are defined as a liability to be minimized instead of an asset to be leveraged?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Kim van der Weerd

Co-host of Manufactured podcast, sustainable fashion advocate, former garment factory manager.

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