The fashion industry in Brazil, as in other countries, faces social, economic, and environmental sustainability challenges. These challenges include:
- Labour issues and working conditions
- Social inequalities
- Unsustainable consumption patterns
- Impacts along the product life cycle
- Quality of education and training
- Use of technology
- Predominant business model
A Convening Alliance formed by the ILO, and 2 business associations, ABIT and ABVTEX along with founding partner, the C&A Institute, convened a 40-member project team consisting of garment workers, retail giants, the public sector, academia, associations and unions, institutes and foundations, international organizations, civil society organizations, media, and others.
After constructing four scenarios that describe possible futures for the fashion industry in Brazil, the team created six multi-sectoral initiatives that aim to tackle the main challenges. The team prototyped, tested and began iterating the initiatives. One of them—focused on improving working conditions and decreasing inequalities—has since taken on a life of its own.
Initiative/Working Group 4: Working Conditions and Inequalities
This multi-sectoral initiative aims to primarily benefit migrant women who are heads of their households and working as seamstresses. It plans to address the problem of degrading work conditions, slave and child labour, and informal employment. The initiative also aims to remove migrant seamstresses from the isolation of working at home and provide them with a collective space that offers more interaction and training opportunities, purchasing power, formal employment opportunities, improved working conditions, and support to understand their rights and relevant public policies.
The working group plans to create a collaborative work model based on solidarity economy principles and that provides:
- High levels of working and safety conditions
- Training courses on business and civic education
- Child care services for workers’ children
- Connections with protection networks and public services
- Market access through solid commercial relationships
Now that the project has a governance structure in place, the working group is establishing institutional and commercial partnerships to begin activity at the end of 2019.
One of the core members of the project team and working group is a Bolivian seamstress who came to Brazil in slave conditions.
Now beginning its second phase, the Sustainable Fashion Lab has become a continuous platform for collaboration and innovation. The lab is expanding its membership along with its goals: to contribute to the transition to a sustainable and fair fashion industry through scaling and developing new and existing solutions, influencing public policy, creating financial mechanisms to invest in sustainable solutions, and continuing to strengthen relationships among key players in the fashion industry.
For more information see the project website recently translated into English: www.labmodasustentavel.org.br/en