To help us understand the inequalities between workers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers we can look at the various different stakeholders who are involved in making an item of clothing, for example a pair of branded Superdry jeans.
Firstly, cotton is needed to make the jeans; it needs to be planted, grown and harvested. However, only 40% of the collected cotton is cotton fibre (the type of material that is needed to make the jeans). This means that the cotton needs to be separated, it is sent to another factory to be separated. After that process is finished the cotton is sent to another factory where it is blended together to make it consistent, the cotton thread is then spun to make the fabric for the jeans. Jeans have a distinctive blue colour, however they are not naturally that colour. The fabric needs to be dyed to achieve the correct shade of blue which is unique to denim jeans; it is at first dyed yellow, because when the fabric comes into contact with air it turns blue. The first half of the manufacturing process is complete, the fabric is made and is ready to be cut and sewn.
The material is sent to yet another factory where the fabric is assembled and sewn, the jeans are also thoroughly ironed after they have been put together. A brand new pair of jeans is now complete! But, nowadays no one wants to wear ‘brand new’ jeans, everyone is looking for the trendy old and worn jeans look. So the jeans are thrown into a dryer, along with kilograms of rocks and are spun to achieve the distressed look. After this the jeans are branded with the Superdry label and shipped to their department stores where consumers can buy and wear them.
Cotton farmers - They make the cotton. They often make the decision to work for these companies - however, it is likely that they don't have a choice and also possible that they don't know about the conditions of some of the other workers. They are also often underpaid.
Cotton mill owners - They also help make the cotton. Like farmers, they are agreeing to work for these companies, but it is likely that they don't have a choice and possible that they don't know what they're signing up for. They may also be underpaid.
Factory owners - They often mistreat workers. They usually don't do as much as they could to try to improve the conditions in the factory. They ensure unfair working hours and underpays workers, however they don't have much of a choice because they are underpaid and critisized by the companies that they work for.
Factory workers - They don't have a choice as to where they can work. They are often abused, underpaid and are forced to work in terrible conditions which are bad for their health and safety. However, they have very little power in the matter, because although they are (in some ways) the most important people in the retail industry they can be easily exploited and are insignificant to the higher powers.
Shop owners - They make the decision of underpaying all of their workers in order for prices to be lower and for the company (themselves) to make more money. They don't take enough action to make working conditions better, but claim to “try” to.
Shop workers - They could be demonstrating or trying to get in touch with managers, but most of them aren't because they are afraid of loosing their jobs and living on the streets. There have been some cases of workers trying to reach out to consumers for help by writing letters in the clothing items they are producing. These cases blow up in the news and media but companies often dismiss them as accidents or mistakes, and then they are forgotten.
People who advertise clothes - They do not let people know what goes on behind the scenes in these companies as they just want the companies to earn money. However, this is not their choice as they earn money from the managers of the companies, so they have to do what they say, which is to get their clothes to sell more.
People who buy clothes - They should research ethical policies of companies (however it is often hard to find accurate information). If we find out a company we like the clothes of has ethics that we do not agree with, we should stop financially supporting them. We should demonstrate and fight for people who are unable to do so themselves - if many people and the press fought for better conditions in the factories we buy clothes from (instead of being selfish and buying things just because they look nice) the companies would gradually be forced to change their ways.
Many companies take advantage of a countries poverty and use it to manufacture their products, which turns many of their factories into sweatshops. Some companies pay so little that factory owners cannot afford to keep up good conditions in the factories, this means that the factories are very dangerous to work in. However, some factory owners may take too much money out of the pay to the factory and then not keep up the conditions in the factory. In sweatshops workers are often abused and overworked for minuscule pay, some workers will even sleep on the factory floor because they cannot afford a place to stay. Sadly, not only adults are affected by the terrible conditions in sweatshops.
In the world, 59 million children aged 5-17 are involved with hazardous work. Many companies still use child labour, for example: H&M, Walmart, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Apple, Disney, Forever 21 and Nike, to name just a few. Some of the countries with the most child labour are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Bangladesh. These are some of the countries in which most sweatshops are. Most of the child labour is illegal (for example: in Turkey child labour is illegal for Turkish citizens but many Syrian refugee children who are not Turkish citizens are involved with child labour). Not only do the sweatshops and the child labour help companies sell their products for a cheaper price and allow them to keep the larger percent of the income. There is also the illegal black market trading of goods. This is a market that is disconnected from the government and doesn't pay taxes. It is usually secretive, selling illegal products, often for a cheaper price. Big companies may be using black markets to get dyes or fabric for their clothing. It is hard to know which countries use these as they are very secretive about it.