Listing India’s rapid expansion as one of ten major trends to follow in the coming year, BOF and McKinsey & Company confirmed that India’s ever-growing middle class is set to be a rampant factor in its GDP expansion. “India is on the rise—its growing middle class, powerful manufacturing sector, and increasingly savvy tech have made it an essential destination for fashion companies,” the report read. “India’s apparel market will be worth $59.3 billion in 2022, making it the sixth-largest in the world.”
What does India manufacturer?
India is a country rich with cotton plants, and therefore exports a huge amount of cotton to the world. Cotton, linen and leather are the three main textile exports, so there’s a good chance that some of your favourite summer pieces were manufactured in India.
Are Indian textile factories ethical?
Yes and no. Companies — like H&M — who propose to pay their workers a “living wage” have good intentions in India, but the reality is that they don’t always stack up to their promises.
“Lots of codes of conduct talk about a living wage and we have no evidence of factories paying a living wage; lots of codes of conduct talk about right of workers to join or form a union of their own choosing and that rarely happens. These codes of conduct are more about allaying the concerns of consumers than implementing these rights in the supply chains of brands,” Ben Vanpeperstraete, lobby and advocacy coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign, told Vox in 2018
While there have been no huge tragedies like in Bangladesh, India has had their fair share of factory deaths. According to DW, more than 100 workers died between 2014 and 2018 in Tamil Nadu, one of the largest industry areas in the country, and conditions are not good. Noting that suppliers and brand factories are often not associated with one another, a Westerner buying clothes from India could be told it’s fair trade or ethical, only for the brand to be completely unaware of the treatment inside its supplier’s factory.
“Most of those working in the textile hub spread across Dindigul, Erode, Tirupur and Coimbatore districts are adolescent girls living in hostels far from home. The girls, a majority of them from marginalized families, are often lured by dubious employment agents into signing ‘shady and secretive’ job agreements, which activists say are akin to bonded labor,” the report by DW reveals.
So, should I keep buying clothes from India?
When buying clothes from anywhere, it’s important to ensure you’re buying into ethical treatment of workers and sustainable materials. Not sure how to do this? Plenty of smaller scale companies are producing ethical goods in India, but make sure you do your research first before investing. The Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Guide is a good place to start, so you can check which of your favourite labels stack up. If you don’t spot them there, contact the brand for a full run down of their operations. Ethical Indian fashion is possible, but just don’t take it for granted.