The Question of The Living Wage

The World Of Ethical Fashion

My travels in the fashion world make me meet important contributors to the trend change, the drivers of fashion, the leaders of change – the fashion designers.

During my recent travels to a developed country, where I happened to meet a forum of ethical fashion brands, my encounters turned an eye-opener in terms of how a concept is construed and thus being endorsed by Fashion Designers and Brand owners.

Yes, the buzz word around the world is Sustainable Fashion. Every one who is someone wants to contribute to the world gone wrong. Gone wrong by the doings of the earlier generations of our very own homo-sapiens. Gone wrong because of our own zeal to mechanise and thus control our eco-system.

Talking of Eco-system, one of the key word that comes up in the parlance of Sustainable Fashion is Living Wage.

The Living Wage

When I pitched to sell hand woven fabrics made by women artisans coming from villages of India, the question being asked was, are they being paid their wages properly?

β€œYes, we are a non-profit who has provided free training to the women who were underprivileged and unemployed, provided them with their basic necessities for free, like building toilets in their homes and providing them with free gas connections to cook.” Yes, they do not even have those facilities. The spirit behind this information did not give them surety from my side. The next question thrown was – Are they being paid Minimum Wage or Living Wage. That we are just making sure.

The Eco System Of A Rural Artisan

The advocates of fashion, who are asking these questions have never seen a loom in their lifetime. They do not know what living conditions the artisans are placed in, when they are weaving the fabric. What is their Eco-system. Are they happy with the facilities being provided, of which they were devoid of, given their economic conditions.

Reading digital information being recorded by their fellow fashion bloggers, who visit underdeveloped economies for such material that becomes fodder for their contribution, cannot ever give you any idea as to what are the dynamics of the livelihood of such artisans. All they want is work. Enough work to earn a respectful decent living.

The Social Media Story

The story was very good for the brand owner. Hand-woven fabrics, cheap price, social cause and a great product. She even wants pictures of weavers while at work. Small snippets of videos while they are weaving the fabric. The brand will need this material for their own social posts to promote their merchandise.

Who Is The Protagonist Here

I ask myself: is this designer running a business that is of a scale large enough to provide me some orders that can feed a few weavers? The reality, as stark and ironical as it could be, is that my buyer who has no clue of what he or she is talking about, is running a business at a scale that by itself is not sustainable. I wonder if I should think of that artisan whom I left at home in hope of fetching some business for her, or help this designer to bring her business to the Indian market, that is large enough to sell her merchandise and help her survive.

All in all, I felt the need to tie both ends of the rope so that both the stakeholders can earn a decent living wage!

About the author


Shunya is a journey of fashion veteran, Rajesh Jain, a business strategist in the Fashion & Retail industry. His domains cover all aspects of business – Product, People & Processes. He has journaled here his observations of this ever-changing trends in consumer behaviour and lifestyle.

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