*Image from Santmagazine.com
Clothing line is one of the most profitable industries. The keys of being a successful clothing brand are to keep up with the trend and have the lowest input possible. Many clothing brands in European countries works with factories in china because they have cheap labor that offer low import cost that could maximum their profit. We often make fun of how almost everything we see in market is made in China, but we never thought of look into the production process of a particular item. After learning the goal of environmental anthropology is to studies how different societies understand, interact with, and make changes to the natural world. I would like to find out how the process of producing a pair of jeans affects the worker in the industry, environment of where jeans is being produce, and what role did us, the customer play in the process.
There are 11 types of jeans for women, which are: cut, boot-cut, skinny jeans, flare leg, straight leg, fit, slim fit, loose fit, stretch, rise, and wash. With each type of jeans, there are different styles. (Nair) For example, wash jeans require workers to lighten and loosen the jean material. Some popular wash-jeans style requires acid wash, stone wash, dirty wash, and vintage wash. So what does it take to produce a pair of jeans that we would purchase?
A team from 101 East travels to the Chinese city of Xintang, known as the world’s jeans capital, also a home to the reports of workers rights abuses. Interviews of workers from the jeans producing factory, and secret footage of the work environment exposes how the jeans capital of the world, also is a dirty and dangerous industry, Workers working with toxic chemicals in rooms that are dark, messy, and no fresh air flow. The video also exposes the industry still secretly producing sandblasting jeans. A controversial process that makes denim look fashionably worn but which causes irreversible damage to workers’ lungs. The industry produce domestic cheap jeans, and also big major U.S. clothing retailer brands like American Eagle Outfitters, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Abercrombie & Fitch had made official announcement saying, “… A&F does not support the practice of sandblasting during the manufacturing process of our goods.” On the other hand, American Eagle Outfitters joined the movement that pledged to end sandblasting in 2011, and have said, “Until we believe that proper controls can be put in place to ensure that sandblasting is done safely, we are no longer developing new denim styles with sand blasting.” (Denim Blues) After the video is exposed, and the public relation teams from these two brands had replied that the company has verified all sandblasting equipment has been removed. This case reflects a possible result of foreign partners, where the companies aren’t able to control and regulate the production process in foreign countries.
Factory workers aren’t the only one that suffers from unsafe work practices, the environment is also paying for our favorite style of jeans. The pipes of the factory lead directly into the river outside Tianxiang the chemicals is also dumped into the river. There is a village, the village relies mainly on agriculture. Farms that are there long before the factory, are now heavily affected by the factories in term of bad air, water full of chemicals. The water from the factory also interrupts the ecosystem in the water by ending it.
We, as the customers, initiated the industry indirectly. Demands attract supply. If we don’t demand the cool looking jeans, brands would stop producing the un-demanded jeans. To help demand company offer a safe working environment, and preserve the environment that hasn’t get ruined yet. What else we can we do?
“Denim Blues.” Aljazeera. March 09, 2015. Web. May 1, 2016.
Nair, Lakshmi Unny. “11 Types of Jeans for Women.” November 26, 2011. Web. May 1, 2016.