Clothing case



Teenagers often are very occupied with their appearance. They usually know a lot about clothes. They know what trousers have to look like, what the colour should be and what fabric it should be made of. They also know the exact price of some clothes or special brands. Besides most of them are familiar with the different fabrics like cotton, polyester, linen, fleece, wool and polyacryl.
Most kids don’t know anything about the backgrounds of clothing. Maybe they heard something about low-wage countries, but the exact background information and what you can do about it is unknown. The process preceding the moment you buy trousers is often long and takes place around the world. The objective of this case is to make the pupils aware of the impact they have on lives of people elsewhere.

Questions to start out with

If the case doesn’t take longer than 4 hours, it is recommended to hand some questions to the pupils to start out with, so they can think of how to approach the sources.

  • What are clothes made of?
    Cotton is cultivated in countries with a tropical climate. Insecticides and fertilisers are used for the cultivation. Linen (flax) grows in temperate regions and is not very vulnerable to diseases, fertiliser is mostly used. For the processing of cotton and linen to fabric, chemicals and dye are required. All of this is very damaging for the environment, but provides labour in poor countries. Synthetic fabrics are produced out of mineral oil. Mineral oil constitutes a large part of the world’s trade and affects the environment and the operating environmental standards. Synthetic products are often difficult to decompose.
  • What does ‘made in Spain’ mean?
    On most of the labels in clothes you can read in which country it is produced.
    That doesn’t mean that the fabrics are produced or designed there. Clothes often literally travel around the world before they end up in wardrobes. Clothes designed in France, produced in China with fabrics from Italy and smallwares from Korea can end up in Belgium or Japan via the Netherlands or Germany. Apparently it is cheaper to execute every step of the process of ‘trousers in the making’ in a different place than to execute all the steps in the country of sale.
    That means that in Europe wage-costs and environmental tax are higher than the transport- and communication costs. Environmental taxes are avoided by establishing the production at places where you can freely pollute.
  • What kinds of people work in the clothing industry?
    More people are involved in the clothing production process than you would imagine. It would be astounding to list the people that make a living out of your expenditure.

Presentation possibilities

Make a test like the ones the Consumer organisations make. A selected number of brands are scored on some important features. Choose one piece of clothing, like a pair of jeans, a sweater or a pair of shoes. Select around ten brands or stores. Decide what features are important for you: for example working conditions of the people who make it, the environmental friendly way of production, the price and the appearance of the piece.
Visit the shops and search the Internet for information. Make pictures of the piece concerned. Create a table in which you present your conclusions in an orderly manner.
Score each product by means of minus and plus signs for each feature. Add up and decide what is the best brand shop.


Consumers guide to Sustainable Technologies-Clothes
This site is designed to be a resource for people making purchasing decisions who want to minimize the environmental impact of their choices.

The Kurlipa Ethical Consumer guide-Clothing, Footwear and Textiles
Information about ethical issues for the consumer of clothing, footwear and Textiles.

CREM- Sustainable clothing and footwear
CREM-projects aim at the stimulation of products that are friendly to man and the environment. Information about their clothing project. An example.

‘Nutritious’ Clothing Produced
News topic about a new clothing fibre made of soybean

Clean Clothes
Clean Clothes aims to improve working conditions in the worldwide garment industry. International newsletter and campaigns.

Sweatshop Watch is a coalition of organizations, and many individuals, committed to eliminating the exploitation of low-wage workers that occurs in sweatshops.

The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) was established in Geneva in September 1996 to contribute to a better understanding of development and environment concerns in the context of international trade. News, dialogues and publications.