Fashion Industry Workers
Shopping retail can be overwhelming due to the options available. When making shopping choices, many might forget about fashion industry workers. Many fashion industry workers across the world face exploitation and violations of human rights, which often pushes them into poverty. Several organizations aim to uphold the rights of fashion industry workers through fair pay, safe working environments, reasonable working hours and more. 

The Fashion Industry

The fashion industry had a 2019 estimate of $2.5 trillion global value. Yet, many fashion brands exploit and take advantage of fashion industry workers in developing nations.

The “minimum wage” in many manufacturing counties only covers a fraction of living costs. Furthermore, many workers do not receive the inadequate “minimum wage.” Workers have to endure 14 to 16 hours of work seven days a week. Additionally, the actual workplace conditions are unsafe and hazardous. It is common for there to be toxic matter present, fiber dust in the air, no ventilation and unsafe building structure.

These circumstances are not humane and prevent workers from breaking cycles of poverty. In 2018, the majority of the 75 million garment workers are women ages 18 to 35 who already face disadvantages due to gender inequality.


Global trade can help developing countries improve their economic growth. In 2017, estimates determined that the fast fashion industry would grow by 5.91% and reach $1,652.73 billion by 2020. This billion-dollar industry could make a difference in low-income countries since there is such value for the market. If companies begin to invest in second-hand items and create sustainable clothing designs by 2030, they could make a $192 billion profit. This would impact the global economy and potentially allow fashion industry workers in low-income countries to boost their economies.

Consuming Thoughtfully

Many know the fashion industry for its exploitation of workers through unsafe labor and low wages. One solution to this problem is through purchasing from companies that want to work with people who have historically experienced exploitation by unfair work practices in the fashion industry.

Pura Utz

This fair trade business has an emphasis on empowering women and breaking the cycle of poverty by employing women in Guatemala to create handmade jewelry in safe conditions and with a livable wage. The directors of Pura Utz created the business in 2018 and now have a staff of more than 50 women in Guatemala working full-time. They wanted to empower their employees and pay the women four times the market standard in Guatemala and the women receive bonuses twice a year. The directors also created safe standards by allowing flexibility in how much the women want to work since some employees might have other responsibilities. Furthermore, they can all work from home, which is especially helpful for women with domestic responsibilities. The work week is Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Pura Utz adopted a business strategy that upholds the rights of fashion industry workers.

Change Starts Now

This company works to create items for the fashion industry while still upholding the rights of fashion industry workers. Through these efforts, the workers receive the empowerment to break cycles of poverty. The workers are able to work with rights and in conditions that are safe while receiving an opportunity to rise out of poverty through fair wages and fair working policies.

Ann Shick
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of Pura Utz
Anna Andrés has always admired jewelry. When she traveled to Guatemala at the age of 10, she learned how she could create jewelry and volunteer to create change. In 2019, she and her partner Bernabela built the brand Pura Utz, which has been helping women sustain themselves in tough economic times. The impact of Pura Utz makes women not only look but also feel beautiful.

Pura Utz

The name Pura Utz means “pure good” in the Mayan language. Since the culture of Guatemala reflects strong Mayan and Spanish influences, these details go into every handmade piece Pura Utz sells. Recently, Pura Utz has collaborated with the bag manufacturer M2Malletier. As a result, the team of artisans, designers and distributors expanded to 100 women.

The details in the Pura Utz products demonstrate the talent of the artisans. The collection features glass beads in bags, handwoven sweaters, earrings and necklaces that artisans delicately shape into an assortment of fruits like strawberries, grapes and lemons. This collection also includes ornamental features, such as handmade flowers like poppies, white nun orchids and blue cornflowers.

Empowering Women at Pura Utz

Even though dramatic changes in the Guatemalan economy are stabilizing, the gap between the wealthier and impoverished citizens is not. The yearly minimum wage in Guatemala is $2,734. However, the impact of Pura Utz is significant because women’s pay with the company is four times more than what they would make working for a corporate manufacturer. The Pura Utz website even provides consumers a breakdown of where the money goes when they purchase an item: one-third of the price goes toward the salary for the working women, one-third goes toward indirect costs like shipping and packaging materials and one-third covers the margins.

Working to empower women has always been a goal for Andrés. In an open letter to supporters, she wrote that “Many of the women in our group and here in the village do have an education, but there are no jobs for them and if there is, they are being paid very poorly.” The essential goods that families need are medicine, food, clothes, electricity and housing. Guatemala is the fifth poorest country in Latin America, making some of these essentials hard to come by. Working at Pura Utz gives these women a way to sustain their lives, through flexible working hours and an empowering community environment.

The impact of Pura Utz has been expanding since helping Bernabela and her daughter Elisa—the first people the brand empowered. Bernabela was the first official team member of Pura Utz. Her current role is as the supervisor of production. She thoroughly enjoys her work and thoroughly enjoys being a part of a company that creates change for women. Bernabela’s daughter Elisa now also works at Pura Utz as an assistant while attending college.

The Future for Women in Guatemala

Poverty brings unimaginable hardships, which makes creating change in the community so important to Andrés. Andrés labeled her brand as an empowerment project because she wanted the economic prospects for women in Guatemala to have no limits.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr