Working in the fashion industry appears utterly glamorous on the surface, yet it only takes a scratch to reveal the ugliness that hides behind the pretty clothes. On the retail side, we hear about double digit growth and store expansions – indicators of healthy business. But traveling deeper into the supply chain paints a very different picture: garment factories are so unsafe they reach the point of collapsing, factory workers are pushed to work long hours in detestable conditions for dismal wages, and the environment is continuously degraded by the pollution and waste the industry leaves in its wake.
Anyone who works in the industry can talk to you about growth: about increasing sales over last year, meeting annual plans, and enticing consumers to spend more than they planned and to want more than they need. When I began my career in this industry, a natural question popped into my head: If we make our sales plan this year, what happens next year? Or the year after that?
The answer didn’t sit well with me.
Every year, the goals increase. Which means every year, sales and production must increase accordingly. If consumption increases, retailers do well. If consumption stalls or drops, retailers hurt. The primary focus? Margin: the money you take to the bank. Margin is the beast that drives the machine.
And it is insatiable.
Trying to feed the beast leads to a very narrow perspective of the industry: it creates the mindset that numbers matter, nothing else. My hope with this blog is to shed light on the darkened corners of the fashion industry, allowing them to be seen and made known, and to provide space for discussion and collaboration, which can ultimately grow into solutions.