One in every 6 people in the world work in the garment industry. We need to think about how this is negatively impacting the people and the planet. “Fair trade” and “slow fashion” is a citizen and brand response to the injustices involved in these harmful industries. Look at your current outfit you are wearing. Do you know who made your clothes? Do you know what the conditions were like for that worker? Were they paid fairly?
Every piece of clothing has been touched by human hands. Garment workers are the ones paying the true price for our clothing. Currently, we only make 3 percent of our own clothing in the US. The rest is outsourced to countries such as China, Bangladesh, and Cambodia. The majority of people in the western world are voting with their dollar and saying, “We want cheap. We want to buy more quantity, not quality.” And, when the market speaks, the capitalists in our country respond by giving us what we want, even if that means sometimes exploiting people and the planet in the process. A common argument for sweatshops is that: “It’s providing work for these people, and their alternative jobs are worse.” Though, how sick is it that we are profiting off their need to work and their lack of options to go elsewhere? The garment worker is the only part of the supply chain that has been squeezed throughout the years. These workers work for only around 2 dollars per day. This is modern day slavery.
Harmful chemicals fill the sweatshops, affecting the health of the workers and their children. The buildings are unsafe to work in. One of the worst garment industry disasters in history happened in Bangladesh, where their factory collapsed on 1,000 workers and children that died. These giant factories pollute the cities where these people live. Their water is contaminated with chemicals, which in turn contaminate the food that they ingest. Their health is compromised and then their savings go into treating their diseases.
Cotton is the most common natural resource in the fashion industry. Though, the cotton plant is being engineered to keep up with the high fast fashion demand. It has completely changed the farming industry. The chemicals and pesticides used for these cotton farms affect the people in those communities. It can cause mental illness, cancers and physical handicaps.
Over 85 percent of garment sweatshop workers are women. As a feminist, it is my mission to do all I can to make sure all women make a fair wage and be proud of their work. Without human capital and cheap female labor, fast fashion would not be generating the profits that it is. These women need to be rewarded, not exploited.
The health of our planet is dying. Fashion as a whole is one of the most polluting industries in the world. For a long time, the resources that were needed to create products we desired were abundant. Though, fast fashion is still relatively new and since it’s beginning these resources are becoming less and less abundant. Water, land, fiber and chemicals are all inputs, which mean they cost something. If you choose to dispose of clothing as waste, it is important to know that most of it is not biodegradable and will sit in landfills for over 200 years and emit toxins into the air. If you think that you can get around this by donating to thrift stores, you should know that it is not that easy. Only 10% of clothes donated to thrift stores actually get worn.
There is an increasing amount of research that fast fashion is affecting us: mentally and physically. Fast fashion has made people feel richer and richer because they can buy more, but in reality, it makes us poorer, by making us over-purchase and under-value our belongings. The more people are focused on material status, the less happy and more anxious they are. We as customers receive so many messages from advertisements that materialism and owning things will make us happy. The reason that advertising works is it ties the consumption of the product to your needs being satisfied.
I promise you, that being a more conscious buyer and owning less will make you cherish your items more. Knowing the story of your clothing connects you to the item and the people who made it. We need to recognize the impact of our consumption.
Love what you own. Love on the people who made it. Give up fast fashion.
To learn more I encourage you to check out these resources: