Why fast fashion is cheap but far from free

Have you ever wondered how your clothes are made? Are you curious about how big fashion companies can sell their products so cheap? Or has it ever crossed your mind as to why all our clothing tags say "made in China" or "made in Bangladesh"?

 

Fast Fashion may be cheap, but it's far from free. Someone is paying the price.

Today's consumers are becoming more conscious of what they buy, all the way from food to fashion.

The Rana Plaza tragedy in April of 2013, killing close to 1,200 people and injuring over 2000, opened eyes around the world. People were starting to have more questions about who is making their clothing and what kind of environment they work in. Since then, we have seen the take off of the Fashion Revolution.

Sure, your $5 scarf from Wal-mart is cute, but what's the story behind the 11 year old Chinese girl who makes it? Great, you're excited about the $10 shirt you got from H&M, but what kind of conditions is the 15 year old Bangladeshi girl being forced to work in? These are questions we should be asking. Fortunately, people are starting to.

 

What does Ethical Fashion mean?

Ethical fashion is about respecting fundamental human rights. Ethical fashion is a blanket term used to describe various areas of the fashion industry including the right to fair wages, safe working conditions, a healthy environment, not being forced to work long intensive hours, no child labor, animal rights all while minimizing environmental impact. It is transparently designed, sourced, produced and distributed with the well-being of workers, animals and the Earth in mind. 

Ethically made also means mindfully made.

 


Kashmiri women working from home-based cottage industry

 

Why is Ethical Fashion needed?

All around the world workers are being exploited. Working strenuous hours on end, in conditions that are more than likely not considered safe, followed by a low pay wage and grotesque working conditions. Many of these workers are women and children.

Aside from human exploitation, animal cruelty is closely linked to these production factories. Not to mention the environmental impact they have because of tremendous amounts of water waste and allowing dangerous chemicals to run into local rivers and lakes, sometimes contaminating the only source of bathing and drinking water.

You can probably guess how much money goes back to these workers after you buy a pair of jeans for $15 at Forever 21. Not a whole lot. And your 2 for $10 tank tops at TopShop are making overseas garment workers pay the price for your fast fashion choice.

 

Fast Fashion is Unsustainable.

The amount of clothes Westerners buy is through the roof, and spending is kept at a minimal thanks to fast fashion stores like Forever 21, H&M, Zara and many others. But do we really need all this?

According to a Huffington Post article, the average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year. SIXTY-EIGHT POUNDS straight in the garbage. If we continue to live this way that number is only bound to grow.

While walking into stores such as Forever 21 may look like a dream with all their bright red '75% off' signs and discounted sales racks, ask yourself these questions. Do I support child labor? Do I support sweatshops? Do I agree with unjust working conditions and unfair wages?

I surely hope your answer is no.

Does having an 8 year old boy work 12 hours a day to make your flimsy sandals sound justifiable? Or what about the little girl who should be in school, but instead shes mastered how to make a T-shirt that has 'dream' written in cursive on it, all while she endures the nasty conditions of a sweatshop.

While a little girl in America proudly wears her new pink flowered shirt, a little girl in Brazil is forced behind a sewing machine. While a little boy in England sports his new light-up running shoes, a little boy in Vietnam is stuck in a crowded factory for 10 hours.

 

 

How can I support Ethical Fashion?

  1. Research the companies you buy from and don't buy from fast fashion outlets. Companies who are ethical and sustainable won't be afraid to share where their garments are made, if anything, they will advertise it.
  2. Buy Quality over quantity. Buying something that's quality made might cost more when you first purchase it, but in the long run it will last you longer than the cheaper option, in reality costing you less.
  3. Fast fashion distorts your sense of value. If we buy a sweater for $10 we will be way more likely to throw it out without thinking because we say "well, it was only $10" compared to if you bought a sweater for $40
  4. Buy from a local business. Wouldn't you rather support a local family have a quality life rather than feed corporate companies greed for money?
  5. Thrift! Second-hand stores are a great place to find clothing for a cheap price while also supporting sustainability. 

These are points that are commonly over looked thanks to that bright red sale sign taunting us through the window.

Ethical fashion doesn't have any formal regulations, as the term ethical is defined according to how a single person decides what he or she sees as right or wrong. But one thing everyone should agree on when the term 'ethical fashion' arises, is the basic human rights of the people involved, the welfare of the animals that get tangled in the mess, and the treatment of the planet we inhabit.

 

Melissa Roberts
Author: Melissa Roberts
Consultant
Intrepid traveler, writer and photographer, part of Magic Pashmina team since April 2017.

Visit Meandering Melissa, her new traveling and alternative lifestyle blog


 

 

 

 

 

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