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16 Aug 2023

Asad Rehman, War on Want

Foreword - Fashioning the future: Fixing the fashion industry for workers and climate

The world is in a state of crisis. Climate breakdown, unprecedented global inequality, the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and global cost-of-living crisis, are ravaging the lives and lands of the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities. Increasingly frequent and intense climate disasters amplify and deepen these existing inequalities, with devastating consequences for millions of people.

Inequality, both within and between countries, has become deeply entrenched – the result of centuries of colonial plunder and dominance of a rigged economic system that has seen the wealth of rich elites grow exponentially at the expense of the majority. The gap between the richest and the poorest is stark: half of the global population share just 2% of global wealth, while the richest 10% own 76%. Just 2,153 billionaires hoard more wealth than 60% of humanity...

The global fashion industry, or as we call it in this report, ‘big fashion’, is controlled predominantly by corporate elites in the Global North, and is part and parcel of an economic system designed to maximise profit for the few, at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of working people across the world. The clothes we wear, and the processes that produce them, therefore provide us with a window into the broader inter-connected crises of poverty, inequality, climate and ecological breakdown...

This report honours those working in the supply chains of an industry notorious for exploitation and abuse, both of workers and of our planet’s eco-systems. The report is not a blueprint for how to transform big fashion, but an insight into how the business model and economic system they operate in are inherently damaging. It situates the fashion industry as a key sector that must be urgently transformed because of its impact on the planet, and explores the extent to which corporate power and pursuit of profit has driven profound inequality, poverty, and worker exploitation. Crucially, this report explains why the transformation of sectors like fashion must be designed with and by workers and frontline communities, and not become another crisis they must endure...