Recently, the South Asia region has shown up on our fashion radar for both good news and bad news. H&M announced that it will be expanding its brand into India in the midst of unrelated news that a multi-story, Bangladesh garment factory housing over 3,000 employees collapsed. The newest reports confirm that over 300 employees are dead.
Taking in these two headlines along with the known fact that H&M contracts manufacturing of its lines in both India and Bangladesh begs the question of whether H&M’s expansion into a new global market comes at a bad time.
Just last year, H&M came under fire for low wages in Cambodia and a garment factory fire in Bangladesh. It would seem to many that the South Asian market is already heavily saturated with fashion. Maybe not in the traditional sense where there exists oversupply, but the region definitely boasts origin of most clothes that then end up on shelves half a continent away. So, while H&M is prepared to commit $130 million to break into the Indian market, the market may not be very happy to welcome the fashion giant in light of some of their alleged labor indiscretions and the recent Bangladesh building collapse. Already, the building collapse has triggered angry protests and international attention centered around the issue of fashion companies taking advantage of weak labor laws in South Asia.
And although many have lauded H&M’s strategic expansion into India, one really still has to talk about the elephant in the room: Why would the prospective Indian, H&M shopper, one who most likely is identified as being in the lower to middle class, purchase clothes from H&M when they likely know someone who works in a garment factory that produces H&M clothing who can either produce an at-home duplicate or bring her extras that do not pass quality inspection?