What’s better than finding that perfect sweater in the right size, beautiful color and … for only $15?
After every break, most of us come back with a bunch of new and trendy clothes. “I bought like 18 clothing items in 25 minutes, man, there was such cute stuff and for so cheap!”
High schoolers and young adults neither want to spend a lot of money on high-end brands nor do they want outdated and unfashionable products. In that case, fast fashion stores become a very convenient option. But, have you ever wondered how these clothes are made and what the workers, who make the clothes, have to go through? Fast fashion needs to slow down because the truth about the fast fashion industry is very ugly.
H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Gap, and American Eagle are on the list of the favorite and most popular stores around the globe; however, they come under the fast fashion category. Fast fashion takes advantages of a continuous change in fashion trends based on which they put out new products multiple times a week. It is popular and in high demand because it’s inexpensive.
But, how did fast fashion manage to take over our wardrobes and become such a flourishing phenomenon?
It is not wrong to say that they make use of the public’s demand for highly fashionable products at a reasonably low cost. However, the truth is that fast fashion retailers are creating that demand by replacing items with different styles and designs so that our older clothes look old-fashioned and so we constantly shop to buy trendier clothes.
Fast fashion sounds incredible, but it really isn’t; there is another side that comes with a high price that we all pay.
Have you ever thought about the garment workers who make a ridiculous amount of clothes every day?
The producers of these fast fashion retailers are very desperate for workers, and so they use cheap labor in clothing factories or workshops. Sadly, laborers work at very low wages for as long as 14 to 16 hours a day under substandard conditions.
The salary of an average worker in places like Bangladesh is $33 per month. Did you know since 1990, more than 400 workers died in that country? The exposure to harmful chemicals and mishaps in factories have wounded a thousand workers. And that’s not even it, female workers also face sexual harassment and get no maternity leave — which is inhuman.
The first question that comes to mind is, why do workers bear this nonsense and torture?
The simple reason is that the cost of living is more expensive than their salary. Nonetheless, each one of them has families to support. Since there is no labor law in countries like Bangladesh, fast fashion causes human trafficking.
Global Labor Justice highlights the “daily reality” of women who face abuse in Asian factories of H&M and Gap. Alarmingly, abuse faced by workers includes rape, slapping, gendered bullying, and misuse of power to pursue sexual relationships — and the world’s biggest fashion companies are to be blamed.
Being a young adult myself who is eventually going to start working, I can’t believe that individuals have to face sexual harassment and/or abuse, that too, in their workplaces. Why does working with integrity to earn money — in this case, barely enough money to live a decent life — can cost a person so much, physically and emotionally?
Fast fashion needs to slow down because no man or woman deserves to be treated this way.
Human trafficking is not the only result of this. There is another equally disappointing truth about the fast fashion industry: child labor.
Gap, Inc. was accused of having a contract with a production company in India that uses child labor. It was mentioned in the paper that a 10-year-old boy was sold to that company by his own parents. He was brought down to that place along with 40 other children. That company had young children working for as long as 16 hours a day without being paid. If these kids cried or complained, they would be “hit with a rubber pipe” or “punished with an oily cloth stuffed in [their] mouths.”
How insane is that? Why are these kids dealing with this torment and ill-treatment at an age where they are supposed to study and enjoy themselves? So that we can enjoy the latest trends and have new clothes every time we enter any of these fast fashion stores.
There are many alternative “ethical clothing brands” that do not exploit their workers, and we still can shop for trendy and fashionable clothes. Stores like Patagonia and Levi’s are taking positive action for the wellbeing of their workers, causing them “no unnecessary harm.”
The solution to this is not simple. But, one possible change that can and must be made is; increase in salary of the garment workers. The cost of the perfect sweater might increase from $15 to $20 but at least it will make a substantial difference in the workers’ lives.
I also shop at these places. However, it is possible to cut down on buying piles of clothes when we come back to school after every break. Shopping for the latest clothes that are fashionable and up-to-date — in abundance — is really not worth it.
Moreover, educating more and more people about the hideous truth of the fast fashion industry is extremely important. We have to start somewhere, with small steps.
On our end, as common people, we can ask questions if we are unsure about whether or not the garment workers in their store are paid a decent salary and treated fairly. Moreover, in most stores we go, they provide a customer comment card. We can use that to ask the stores to work with their suppliers against child labor as well as the exploitation of their garment workers.
I am not asking you to completely give up on all your favorite stores. But, next time if you find that perfect $15 sweater and you successfully resist buying it, that can be the first step in the right direction.
Edited by Swastika Sharma and Priyansha Agarwal