Critically evaluate the ethical position of consumers and retailers in the global fashion industry
I don't think it is fair, but it is the way things are. People in wealthy countries want to save money on clothes, so the companies develop the clothing lines there and then have them manufactured in companies with very low wages. Is it wrong? Yes, but that's free enterprise.
Consumers in rich countries wearing cheap clothes does not imply exploitation of those in poor countries producing them. A manufacturer could provide standard working conditions and export well made yet low cost clothes, but they may be relatively more expensive to a manufacturer who produces them in substandard working conditions and exploits the workers.
If rich consumers are willing to value the laborer's working conditions, be assured that such are up to standard, and to pay a bit more for the clothes, then the problem is solved. Having voted with money, that company will make a profit and flourish; the one that makes no sale because of worker conditions faces extinction. However, if consumers simply value cheap clothes, that's what they'll get, at the cheapest cost, without regard to working conditions.
Those who want to promote good working conditions must buy the slightly more expensive clothes; they must put their money where their mouth is.
Will most consumers choose to do so?
...The fault lies not in our stars, but in our selves...
This a great question. I am sure that there will be different answer and this is actually a hard question to answer, because there are many components.
First, we need to realize that what is legal may or may not be fair. Of course, we hope that what is fair is also upheld by the law, but in some cases it is not. As for manufacturing, often time people in poorer countries are exploited to produce things for wealthier countries. This might be legal, but it is not fair. In my opinion, we should pay a little more to help out those in need. We should pay people a "living wage," and what I mean by that is to give people enough to live on.
Second, for the poor in other countries that do the work, we can argue that at least they have a job. This is not always the case for people in poorer nations.
Third, there is the faceless middle person. We need to know how much he or she is making. This can add hidden costs.