‘Clothes’ are an attractive way of showing one’s own style. I guess young people are so fanatical about ‘fashion.’ However, the reverse of the fashion industry is too horrendous. Tailors get low wages and do manual labor, rookie designers get passion pay, and production processed clothes waste an enormous amount of resources. Orgdot, a social enterprise, strongly denies all of this and makes various efforts to spread the concept of ‘slow fashion.’ I met Orgdot representative Kim Bang-ho and talked about ethical fashion, which considers both the earth and humans through fashion.
1. How do you respect workers’ efforts to produce products in Orgdot?
Our field of business is diverse. Most prominently, there are uniforms, AFM and Designers and Makers. Among those, Designers and Makers is a platform service to connect brands with sewing factories. We’ll try to respect designers and tailors through this business. The designers can put more focus on designing and the producers can get fairer allocations.
2. I think the prices are noticeably lower compared to the quality goods in Korean fashion market’s products. What do you think is the cause of this happening?
That’s because there’s no value in brand. I enjoy wearing only two brands of shoes. One is Camper and the other is Asics. Camper is a Spanish product and Asics is manufactured from both Chinese and Japanese. The price difference between the two countries is more than double. The Japanese product is more expensive because designers make them with the artisan spirit and they overcharge for that. But isn’t it selling well? (Laugh) This is brand value. The sad thing is that there is nothing like that in our country.
3. Is it because of the structure in South Korea, that huge companies like ZARA can’t grow in the field of fashion?
When we analyze the businesses in the fashion industry, ZARA is said to be the center of fast fashion. Other expressions of fast fashion are ‘production reaction’ and ‘sale of reaction.’ ZARA and UNIQLO seek a flagship store strategy, which is to produce in response to good selling products. There had been a wave of fast fashion in Dongdaemun Market since ancient times. Nevertheless, the reason a good company hasn’t emerged is because tailors and designers don’t get fair wages. Looking at the American Market or American Apparel, which resembles Dongdaemun Market, they say they pay fair salaries and make clothes under fair labor management. They are proud of not selling expensive clothes. However, in Korea, the structure doesn’t allow working conditions for tailors to improve. So, there is no such things as giant companies like ZARA.
4. Now, if you look at ethics, you seem to face realistic problems such as a financial problems. How do you deal with them every time?
I am often confronted with difficulties, but it is impossible to solve the problems perfectly. For instance, other people make products unethically for 10,000 won, but we make clothes for 15,000 won because we use better fabric and give workers a fair wage. However, the clothes are sold only for 30,000 won to customers. Then, we sell for 30,000 won while accepting damages, and others are leaving 5,000 won more for their profits. Even if we blame customers, they don’t change easily. Even so, we are proud of what we do because we sell by adding ethical costs, domestic production, and eco-friendly materials.
5. What eco-friendly materials have you developed so far? And how did you apply them in fashion?
There are too many. The thing that we did for the first time in the world is to develop environmentally friendly uniforms; the SK Wyverns’ uniforms. Do you know how enormous the damage to a uniform is when baseball players slide? Basically, uniforms should be able to withstand more than three times the weight of the player’s body. With this point in view, we made the uniforms jointly with SK fabric company. After that, we also developed uniforms for the national soccer team.
6. What do you want to say to young people who consume fast fashion?
I have a lot to say. I always think about the manufacturing process of a product. I never purchase it if the product was made very cheaply or by destroying the earth’s environment. If a boss drives workers to finish a job by squeezing them to make clothes cheaper, I will never purchase it either. But, ordinary people don’t seem to care much about that. People simply buy it when they are inexpensive. So, we should consider whether there is an ethic in the process of making clothes.
7. What are the methods of ethical fashion that college students can practice?
It is to purchase the ethical products. For example, shoe brand ‘Toms’ has a “one for one” system where one pair of shoes gets donated when you purchase a pair of shoes for yourself. They send the other pair of shoes to third world children that are the same designer shoes that the customers purchased. In advanced countries, this consumption style is popular. They said, “I can donate naturally if I buy these shoes! Plus, it’s not so expensive!” Hopefully, such spending styles will take place in Korea.
8. I heard that there are many rookie designers getting passion pay. What do you think about the designers who give passion pay while offering job experience?
It is disgraceful. It is too common and natural in this business. Let me cite how their way of working is. When they work, they tell the rookies to bring a couple of design ideas, and then they put good designs in their own names. This is fixed. It is unfortunate that society has taken such a course.
9. Then, what is the way to solve these problems?
First, customers should place high values on independent brands. Do you know why the clothes of big brands such as Cheil Industries Inc. are cheaper than the ones with better quality? That’s because when they produce clothes in bulk, the price of clothes falls in half. Then there is a lot of profit. Also, they can make the clothes in a good factory. Of course, the large companies have an advantage in all parts compared to Indie brands. Indie brands are small in company size and lack capital. So, it is important for customers to recognize and view their values.
You may now be able to consider the present problem in the Korea fashion market by hearing the ethical fashion ideas of representative Kim Bang-ho. Among our own clothes, one-fifth of the clothes have never been worn. Then, have you ever thought at least once about the process of distribution and the environment when you buy so many clothes? As the representative said, I hope that you become a Gachon University student who can consume clothes, considering the earth and the worker. Also, through this interview article, why don’t you remember that “a little habit can make a better future” in your mind?< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >