Combine phoney design, cheap labour and low-quality goods produced in massive volume and you will get the essence of fast fashion. Yet, the world loves it so much, that the owners of the biggest high street companies are among the richest people in the world.
Recently, I dug into Forbes’ latest billionaires ranking to figure out who is earning the most on our attraction to those disposable 5€ t-shirts.
Check the results below:
#1 Amancio Ortega
With a $72.1 billion net worth, founder of Inditex is the 2nd wealthiest man in the world. Ortega opened first Zara store in 1975. It took him less than 40 years to make Inditex the biggest apparel retail company in the world.
Reality check #1
According to Inditex annual Report 2014 (read here) most of the retailer’s production takes place in Bangladesh. The minimum wage there is 5300 taka (68$) per month. I couldn’t resist making some small calculation, and WOW: It would take about 2.2 million Bangladeshis working for 40 years, to earn Amancio Ortega’s fortune.
#2 Stefan Persson
The business magnate from Sweden is a son of Erling Persson-founder of H&M. According to Forbes, he is now the wealthiest man in Sweden. What is more, his son Karl- Johan, who is since 2009 the CEO of family’s company is now rated #14 wealthiest Swedish person. Everything stays in Hennes& Mauritz family.
Reality check #2
#3 Tadashi Yanai
Tadashi Yanai is the founder of the fast-growing Asian company, Fast Retailing- with its most famous brand Uniqlo. He is now the richest man in Japan and #57 in the world. This Japanese businessman is also extremely ambitious. He plans to beat Ortega and become the largest clothing retailer in the world by 2020.
Reality check #3
In 2008, UN counted that ending the world’s hunger would cost $30 billion a year (counting inflation rate, it is c.a. $33 bn in 2016). It’s easy to count, that the fortune of Top 5 fast fashion tycoons could eliminate hunger all over the world for 3.5 years.
#4 Philip & Tina Green
This British couple is mostly known from the taxgate and being in charge of Arcadia Group. Due to the success of company’s brands (Topshop, Dorothy Perkins) and Green’s ability to stay in long distance relationship (Mr Green works in London while Mrs Green lives in Monaco to save on taxes), they are no. 4 on the wealthiest people in the UK list.
Reality check #4
Sewing machine operator from Sri Lanka working for Arcadia’s supplier earns around $126 monthly. What means, that from one month salary she would be able to buy herself this fab Sleeveless Wrap Back Jacket by Ivy Park (Beyoncé collection).
#5 Jin Sook & Do Won Chang
With a fortune of $4.1 billion, the couple is a perfect example of the success story. Chang came with his wife to the US from South Korea after studies and managed to transform single clothing store into well-known worldwide chain store – Forever 21.
Reality check #5:
Brand Forever 21 is known for extremely cheap products (you can literary buy a t-shirt for €1,88). I guess nothing will express my point better than the quote from Robert Ross in Business Insider:
Nobody in the world is making a living if a retailer is selling $10 jeans.
This list and comparison have been made to highlight the inequalities in the fast fashion industry.
Photo credits: Jigneshhn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons; Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0); http://www.signalng.com/ [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons;