May 3, 2017,
Who made your clothes?
The honest truth is that the majority of us do not know. When we buy an item of clothing we don’t often consider the hard work that has gone into producing that garment. Who made it? How much are they paid? Are they treated fairly?
On the 24th of April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,138 people and injuring 2,500. The building housed multiple garment factories which provided clothing for many huge global brands and is considered to be one of the largest industrial disasters in history. This shocking event devastated people across the world whilst simultaneously providing a shocking insight into the reality of fast fashion. The tragic loss of life inspired people everywhere to band together in order to help change the way the fashion industry works and The Fashion Revolution was created. Every year on the anniversary of the tragedy Fashion Revolution week begins, during this week people are encouraged to ask brands to be more transparent in how their clothing is produced.
The Fashion Revolution claims that there as well as brands being more transparent with their customers there are 3 things that need to be addressed within the fashion industry;
The Business of Fashion
Fashion is produced and consumed at such a high rate which results in companies using textile factories where workers are massively underpaid in order to meet the demand and cut the costs. Clothing can be mass produced and sold on with minimum costs to the company and plenty of profit.
People and the Planet
Many people who work in low paid fashion supply chains do not have a very good quality of life. The legal minimum wage that workers receive is simply not enough to live on, fashion is helping to support modern day slavery. The factories themselves are often not a safe environment for workers to be in as there is no element of basic health and safety which could result in disasters such as the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse becoming a much more frequent occurrence. The cost of clothing is being valued more than the lives of the people who make it.
The fashion industry is a vicious cycle of mass produced cheap clothing which often gets thrown out and replaced by more clothing. Whilst few of us choose to donate our clothes to charity or sell them on to others, most tend to simply throw it away with no consideration to what kind of effect this could possibly have. In 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency released a damming figure which claimed that 84% of unwanted clothing in the US went to either a landfill or an incinerator. This wasteful attitude we have towards fashion is not environmentally friendly at all.
150 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually yet Americans alone throw away approximately 14 million tonnes of garments each year, that’s over 36 kg per person. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 84% of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.
A knock on effect from mass produced cheap clothing is that independent businesses also suffer. People are simply not willing to pay more money when there are so many other alternatives for much less. Shoppers are valuing quantity over quality meaning that independent business and handcrafted industries are not getting local support and are therefore having to shut down.
The way we think about clothing is a massive part of the problem. We view clothing as temporary throw away garments and not pieces to invest in. We spend our money on items that are only temporarily trendy and therefore going to be consumed and disposed of on a much quicker scale. By regularly shopping on the high-street for items that are incredibly cheap we are unfortunately helping to support the use of sweatshops.
As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago. Every time we buy something that costs less than we think it should, we are implicit in the impacts of that transaction.
So what can we do to get on board with this revolution?
If you’re interested in making a change or even learning more about the consequences of fast fashion then there’s lots of things you can do!
- Watch “The True Cost” – A documentary which shows the impact that fashion has on the world and who really pays the price when it comes to low cost, high demand clothing.
- Research into which brands support the use of cheap labour and those who do not and instead create ethical, fair trade fashion.
- Don’t be wasteful with clothing. If you’re parting with clothes you no longer wear then please don’t just throw them in the bin. Donate them to charity or gift them to someone in your life who you know would appreciate it.
- Clothes not in a good enough condition to donate? Then still don’t throw them out! Believe it or not you can cut clothing up and use the fabric in other ways. Make home décor, custom wrapping paper, stuff pillows or teddies, use the fabric on other clothes etc. All it takes is a little bit of creative thinking.
- Want to update your wardrobe? Then try to upcycle some of the old things you don’t wear anymore. There are plenty of videos online which show you how to easily transform clothes.
- If you don’t feel confident to transform your clothes but still want a wardrobe update then visit charity shops and other second hand shops. You’d be surprised by what you can find there!
- Do a clothes swap with a friend / group of friends. Meet up and trade pieces of your wardrobe together, it’s an excuse to be social, get some new clothes and have fun at no cost whatsoever. Have a look at this Haulternative video by fashion youtuber LaMadelynn where she demonstrates how exciting a clothing swap can be.
Fast fashion needs to change because in the end it hurts us all.
What are your thoughts on this?