On April 24, 2013, a massive structure that housed garment factories and other businesses collapsed in Bangladesh. The horrific event, known as the Rana Plaza tragedy, killed 1,138 people, including children. Experts had previously informed the owner of the structural cracks in his building, and they advised him to shut it down. But he chose to ignore the warnings. The catastrophe put a glaring spotlight on the fast fashion industry and the lengths it will go to for profit. Fast fashion promises new trends season after season, unbelievably low prices, easy convenience, and wide accessibility. But to make it all happen, fast fashion relies on a high volume and low profit margin model, which ends up exploiting the “little people” in the supply chain and causing irreparable harm to our fragile environment. Ethical fashion was born in response to the horrors of the fast fashion industry. From seed to garment, ethical fashion prioritizes sustainability over profit, consciously limiting the negative impact of fashion production on both the planet and its inhabitants.To paint a better picture, let’s cover the problems of fast fashion one by one. After that, we’ll go over our ethical fashion practices and how Metiseko does things better, for fellow people and the planet we share.
FAST FASHION PROBLEM: LABOR ABUSE & EXPLOITATION
ETHICAL FASHION SOLUTION: SAFE WORKING CONDITIONS & FAIR WAGES
According to The World Counts, sweatshop workers in Bangladesh earn just $92 a month, working very long hours without overtime pay. Some are forced to work for 72 hours straight, and others are mere children. Fast fashion pays scant wages, demands long hours, hires children, and violates other labor laws and regulations, to turn out clothes as quickly and cheaply as possible.
At Metiseko, we treat our employees with the utmost respect and provide much more than safe working conditions and fair wages:
- Seamstresses work a maximum of 44 hours per week, which is full-time according to the labor laws in Vietnam.
- Metiseko provides all staff with public healthcare insurance along with unemployment. Long-term staff and their children under 3 years of age enjoy private health insurance.
- Seminars and classes, like embroidery technique and foreign language, are offered to increase our employees’ skill set.
- Metiseko contributes 4% of employees’ salary to a work union fund, which is allocated by peer delegates. In the past, funds have gone towards weddings, funerals, staff parties, and academic scholarships.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Metiseko has remained committed to protecting our team through these times of worry and instability. It has been an ongoing challenge, but we are determined to continue to provide health insurance and financial stability to all our seamstresses, accountants, sales executives and managers. We refuse to resort to laying off employees—regardless of the outcome.
FAST FASHION PROBLEM: UNSUSTAINABLE MATERIALS
ETHICAL FASHION SOLUTION: NATURAL & ORGANIC MATERIALS
Conventional cotton requires synthetic chemicals, genetically-modified organisms, and a variety of other industrial products. Annually, conventional cotton farmers use 6% of the world’s pesticides and 16% of the world’s insecticides. Two-hundred twenty million metric tons of greenhouse gases are released every year from the global production of conventional cotton. And it takes an incredible amount of water - 10,000 liters - to make just one pair of denim jeans.
Read more about “The Dirt On Conventional Cotton” here.
At Metiseko, we consciously work with mulberry silk and organic cotton fabrics because of their low environmental impact. The last remaining silk weavers in VIetnam produce our mulberry silk using very little resources and absolutely no pesticides. Our cotton fabric is made organically from scratch in the South of India by a GOTS-certified supplier.
FAST FASHION PROBLEM: HARMFUL DYES
ETHICAL FASHION SOLUTION: TOXIN-FREE DYES
To get that perfect shade of red, blue, or whatever is on trend for the season, fast fashion uses toxic chemicals, salts, heavy metals and other pollutants. Unregulated factories often let their chemical waste flow into waterways, contaminating the drinking and bathing water, devastating ecosystems, and posing health hazards to the local population. The fabric-dyeing industry contaminates approximately 20,000 tons of water each year (source).
At Metiseko, our cotton fabrics are dyed and printed with AZO-free components, which eliminate the use of toxic compounds and have a much lower impact on the environment. Mulberry silk is naturally easy to dye and doesn’t require as many harmful chemicals compared to other fabrics.
FAST FASHION PROBLEM: TEXTILE WASTE
ETHICAL FASHION SOLUTION: RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION
The fast fashion industry inherently comes with a textile waste problem. Fabric scraps, unused materials, and old, used or faded goods often get dumped into landfills or incinerated. According to the EPA, 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in the trash in 2018.
At Metiseko, we aim to prevent and divert textile waste as much as we possibly can. We utilize just-in-time manufacturing, which avoids over-production and saves resources by streamlining our production system. Instead of throwing away fabric scraps, we turn them into scarves, hair ties, and face masks. Any wearable items that have become old, used or faded are priced at a discount. Garments that can’t be sold are repurposed into clever, zero-waste goods.
FAST FASHION PROBLEM: VAGUE MESSAGING
ETHICAL FASHION SOLUTION: TRANSPARENT
Ethical fashion is all the rage these days. In 2020, consumers spent over seven billion hours searching for “sustainable,” “ethical,” “fair trade,” and “eco-friendly” items online (source). But while most brands like to throw these popular terms in their marketing, few give clear information on how, where, and by whom their clothing is made. This hollow, vague messaging builds mistrust with consumers.
Have a look at the Metiseko website, social media and blog. We share our ethical fashion practices with our consumers on all our outlets. Our swing tags showcase the seamstress who assembled that particular garment, giving buyers a clear picture of who made their clothes. By connecting our consumers to our Makers, we hope to inspire a fairer and more transparent fashion industry.
Metiseko has been the recipient of multiple awards for sustainability. In 2013 and 2021, we won the Sustainable Development Award from the French Business Awards by the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vietnam (CCIFV). The economical magazine Forbes Vietnam also commended Metiseko in its extensive article about transparency and ethical business practices.
Given the detrimental social and environmental effects of fast fashion, it simply does not have a place in our future. Ethical fashion, with its continuous push for a more sustainable industry, is the way to go.
At Metiseko, luxury, design, sustainability and ethics go hand in hand. It is our mission to offer a unique alternative to what’s currently available in the fashion marketplace in Vietnam and beyond.