As much as the mass global production of textiles has afforded most countries unparalleled conveni-ence, we are slowly but surely coming to understand that all this convenience comes at a huge cost.

Countries that import textiles and clothes suffer from loss of jobs and a lack of independence in production. On the flip side, countries that are engaged in mass production, waning resources, pressure on local infrastructure and health epidemics are the order of the day.

It is therefore becoming increasingly clear that the current global systems in the textile industry aren’t going to be sustainable in the long term.

So the question is, what can we do as individuals, as nations and as global citizens, to remedy the bur-den that all the negative effects of mass production has brought and to safeguard future generations?

John Maynard Keynes, a famous British economist, whose theories and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments fundamentally changed how we all see our economies, is quoted as saying,

“it is easier to share the recipe, than shipping cakes and biscuits”

In essence, distributed production or local production should be encouraged.

Although most countries will probably not be able to find all their answers locally, local production can help ease the burden of mass production and what’s more it can have a lot of positive benefits to local economies.

Changing our mind-set about how we buy and by supporting local crafts, weavers and artisans who source and produce locally and ethically, can start an upward spiral that can have a huge positive impact on the global textile industry.

Why Should We Support Local Textile Industries?

Economic Impacts of the Textile Industry

At the level of the local economy, the direct benefits include; improved economies, increased GDP and more employment.

First, even though wages in developed countries that have textile and clothing industries pay their workers more, workers in developing countries are paid more than they would in other industries in the local economy.

For example, In Bangladesh, even thoughwages in the textile and clothing industry are low, women with jobs in the textile and clothing industry are paid twice as much as their counterparts who are domestic servants.

Secondly, on average and in most textile producing countries, wages in the textile and clothing industry are higher than for most manufacturing jobs (e.g. in dairy, leather, wood processing etc.). Although this accounts for about half the manufacturing average wage, it suggests that the textiles and clothing industry is a step up the value chain in the industrial ladder.

Third, as much as most studies show a big gender and equity bias against women in the textile and clothing industry, where women are paid less and working conditions are often worse, higher employ-ment levels are often in their favour.

For example, Bangladesh employs about 85% women, China 70% women and Cambodia 90% women in the garment industry. These women are often paid more than other jobs in agriculture and domestic jobs. In Bangladesh, the union leaders in the garment industry are now women, more than ever before.

To further elucidate the negative impacts of not supporting local production, according to the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU), approximately 2,000 – 3,000 South Africans had been losing jobs in the textile every year due to an influx of cheaper clothing from Asia.

In 15 years a total of about 150,000 jobs were lost. Like in most garment producing countries garment workers are mostly women and often single mothers that are the bread winners. In a country that has high unemployment rates, these jobs are important for the society and especially for women and children.

Socio-Cultural Impacts of Not Supporting Local

With the advent of fast fashion the cycle of textiles are so globally interlaced, such that they eliminate indigenous opportunities.

China, India and Bangladesh are the world’s factories mainly supplying to developed nations such as Europe and USA. Under-developed countries such as Africa are beneficiaries to these Asian produced garments in the form of second-hand donations from the developed nations.

No matter which stage of the cycle a nation is in, indigenous local textile arts suffer for varied reasons.

Garment producing nations have increased pressure to produce extremely low cost, mass produced garments with directly stifles quality, indigenous textiles as they are more time consuming and thus expensive to produce.

Developed Nations are hooked on to buying cheap clothes, constantly. This leaves no scope for indigenous textile innovation as it cannot compete with fast fashion garments derived from these primarily Asian nations, in terms of speed or price.

And lastly, developing nations such as Africa suffer because of the rock-bottom prices of the donations they receive from Europe and USA. In a study by Oxfam, over 70% of the globally donated clothes, land up in Africa. According to a representative of the African Cotton & Textiles Industries Federation informed ‘“The average cost of a secondhand garment is between five and 10 percent of a new garment [made in Kenya], so [local industries] can’t compete.”

Given this fact, Africans are finding it hard to even locally produce their own national garments – causing a cultural crisis beyond an economic one!

Environmental Impacts Caused By Global Supply Chains

John Maynard Keynes, a famous British economist, whose theories and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments fundamentally changed how we all see our economies, is quoted as saying,

as saying,
“it is easier to share the recipe, than shipping cakes and biscuits”

Fast Fashion has advocated the concept of global supply chains. And while this concept might save you a few dollars, it proves to be very costly on the earth, especially in terms of shipping costs on the envi-ronment.

More than 60% of the worlds garments are produced in developing countries. Asia produces over 32% of global supply of garments. As production and labour costs increase, manufacturing is moving to countries where these resources are even cheaper such as Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Some of these countries don’t have the raw material required and thus they have to be shipped from countries that do. The manufactured garments are then shipped out to the countries where they will finally be used.

Countries like America purchase 22 billion items yearly with 90% percent of these items being trans-ported into America by container ship.
To put it into perspective, a single ship has the propensity to produce as much pollution as 50 million cars ! Tons of low-grade fuel is consumed by ships hourly causing colossal environmental and health damage in the way of hazardous, often unregulated emissions.