How Safe Is Our Fashion

By Irfan Moeen Khan

This post is with special reference to the women of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
It took Europe over 100 years to realize that clothes that they wear could kill them.
As a result of this realization today European Union has taken serious measures that no hazardous garment can either be produced in EEC or could be imported into the Europe.
European Commission has established a website for rapid exchange of information on measures to prevent and to restrict the marketing or use of products posing a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers. This website publishes a weekly report identifying such products which are removed from the shelves and even called back from the end consumers.
If we turn the pages of history we will see that history is full of incidents where people became victims of fashion. There are cases cited in history books where people have died due to unsafe clothing.
Today in Pakistan it is believed that our Fashion industry has come a long way where as it is not even born. Today our women are exposed to severe threats just because of unsafe clothing. And the so called designers are themselves not aware of these facts. They are designing and producing what customer is demanding and customer on the other hand is simply unaware or hypnotized by the electronic and print media to look good.   
Lets see the hazards to which our women are exposed to.
Loose Clothing:
Aga Khan University Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine conducted a study the highlighting injuries especially to women due to lose clothing.
“Clothing-related motorcycle injuries in Pakistan: findings from a surveillance study”
It is not only motorcycles but also other moving machines like escalators in the malls, lifts, cars etc.
Our women and even our fashion designers are totally ignorant of this fact that how many women can suffer serious head injuries due to loose and uncontrolled clothing and yet they design dresses which are loose, long and difficult to manage especially bridal wear.
On October 7, 1908 Mrs. Edith O Berg flew with Wilbur Wright for  two minutes at Auvours France and her skirt was tied around for safety reasons. A picture of her is available on the net as it can not be published here due to copy write of National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Carcinogenic Metals and Chemicals
In our bridal wear there are various types of embroideries which involves metal thread, normally called “aar, Karchobi and dabka”. This metal thread is not at all branded and may contain heavy metals like, Nickel, chrome, cadmium, lead etc. these are cancer causing metals. Lead is the most common form and it is believed that it slows down the mental growth of a child, and affects the reproductive system of humans. It is a common site that young mothers in our culture carry child in their hands and the baby can chew the loose metal threads.
We do not realize the amount hazard to which they and their young babies are exposed to. Metal thread embroidery is normally knotted at the reverse side of the garment causing discomfort to the wearer even if a lining is provided. Due to wearing for over couple of ours could cause scratching of the skin which could lead to an uncontrollable wound in case of diabetic person.
Normally our ladies get their clothes dyed from road side dyers who use direct dyes again these are not of good quality and there is a very high probability that they may contain AZO which again is a carcinogenic chemical and banned in Europe.
Women buying unbranded or replica lawn (very light printed fabric for women very popular in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh)  are also exposed to this hazard as all known textile mills are Oeko-tex certified.  This is an international certification which guarantees safe textiles and textiles free from harmful substances.
If a branded lawn is expensive it is primarily due to this reason that they have used safe chemicals. It is not economically viable for replica Lawn manufacturers to use safe chemicals otherwise they will not be able to sell at such a cheap price. It is a common observation that ladies develop rashes and allergies by wearing new clothes it could be that they are sensitive to these dye stuffs.

Diseased Dresses
Bridal wear is all hand embroidered by workers coming from shanty towns they are people who live below poverty line and their personal hygiene conditions are questionable. In addition to this their working conditions are also not too great, considering our region’s climate sweat is a something which is very common. What if the worker is suffering from influenza, hepatitis, HIV, Ebola, typhoid, tuberculosis and the list can go on.  It is to note here that in France in 1879 outbreak of small pox was due to the soldiers returning from Africa who brought the virus in their uniforms. 
In most cases bridal wear is not washed or disinfected before wearing, the moment it is off the frames it is stitched and delivered to the customers. Designers themselves are not aware of how to handle these garments or how to maintain these garments. There are no care instructions attached to these garments for the customer to follow.
Our so called fashion designers are totally ignorant of these dangers which they are selling. It is high time that they should start educating people and consumers of what safe garments are?
They should get out of commercialism and stop making exorbitant profits. It is a moral, social and ethical duty of our designers to keep our women safe.