3 shirts for the price of 1! Sounds too good to be true because in actuality, there is not a single thread of good in that deal. If the fashion police should go after anyone, then it should be these brands and businesses who are putting out such deals because that means they’re guilty of committing the crime of fast fashion.
Fast fashion is the rapid mass-production of cheap and disposable clothing with the purpose of quickly creating new fashion trends readily available for consumers at the lowest retail cost possible. By definition and on paper, fast fashion sounds like it’s not hurting anyone or anything, but the true crimes are hiding underneath all those clothes and shoes strategically sewn and sold by the criminals who are victimizing us, garment workers, and the environment.
Crime #1: Market deceit, manipulation, and exposure to health risks
- Evidence #1: Hazardous chemical and toxic substances in our clothes
○ Most of our clothes now contain at least 11 hazardous chemicals containing toxins, carcinogens, and hormone disruptors. These chemicals and toxins are absorbed by our skin whenever we wear our clothes sometimes even after washing them.
○ A study conducted by Giovanna Luongo, Chemicals in Textiles, showed chemical substances found in a child’s urine even five days after wearing a set of pajamas for just one night.
- Evidence #2: Excess quantity of poor quality clothes that gets you to spend more
○ Retailers have compensated the quality of clothes for quantity and profit, which is why clothes nowadays easily get destroyed after a few wears and washes. In reality, people end up spending more because they buy again and again to replace the damaged goods.
- Evidence #3: Cycle of discontent and overconsumption
○ Largely thanks to Zara’s business model, the fashion industry now has 52 micro-seasons in a year in what originally used to be just 2-4 (depending where you live in). The creation of these micro-seasons added fuel to the fire of consumerism where people end up buying more than what they really need and in some cases, can afford.
○ The quick turnover of this season’s style has also created a cycle of discontent amongst people as they end up valuing their self-worth and beauty with the clothes they wear and own as they compare themselves with others.
Crime #2: Inhumane working conditions and human rights violations
- Evidence #1: Slave labour practices and exploitations
○ Employing children is a common practice in the fashion industry especially in South India where around 250,000 girls are sent to work
Marked down sales, slashed prices, and a non-repeating OOTD
A wardrobe of chemicals and toxins with an added bonus of unhealthy behavior of excessive consumerism.
in textile factories for 3-5 years in exchange for a basic wage to pay
for their dowry.
○ In Uzbekistan, adults and children are forced by the government to
pick cotton every Autumn regardless if they are employed or enrolled
○ Sexual harassment and discrimination is a norm amongst Bangladeshi
female garment workers whose rights to a maternity leave are also
○ Garment workers are often restricted to form unions to fight for their
rights. Those who are brave enough to do so are threatened, attacked, and abused by their employers as a way to silence them and the others. This happened in Cambodia where 5 workers were killed, 24 people were arrested, and over 40 were injured as they protested against unfair wages.
- Evidence #2: Unfair wage compensation
○ To meet the impossible targets and demands of fast fashion, garment
workers are forced to start work at 7:30AM and punch in 14-16 hours a day during the off season. When it’s “peak season”, work hours stretch as long as 2-3AM only to get paid a basic wage of £25 or $32. FYI, refusal to punch in these hours or meet their targets would lead to termination.
○ Majority of Bangledishi garment workers earn below the living wage of £45 or $57 in order to meet one’s basic needs to survive.
Evidence #3: Conscious exposure to health risks and danger
Garment workers often feel unsafe because of the poor working
environment and conditions they are placed in as a way for local businesses to cut down on costs in management and upkeep. Garment and textile factories tapped by fast fashion retailers are almost synonymous to cramped, poorly insulated, and cracked buildings.
In 2012, more than 300 Pakistani garment workers were killed in a factory fire in Ali Enterprises. In the same year, 112 garment workers died and more than 200 were injured in the fire that broke out at the Tazreen Fashions garment factory.
In 2013, the worst garment industry disaster (so far) happened in Rana Plaza (Bangladesh, India) where over 1,129 garment workers died as the building collapsed. Days before the avoidable disaster, some workers have pointed out these cracks to the management only for them to be forced to still go inside to work.
Currently happening, garment and textile factories are forcing workers to proceed with business as usual despite the dangers of COVID-19 without giving them the proper equipment nor enforcing safe protocols to keep them from becoming at risk themselves. Garment workers employed in factories that are sewing clothes for Primark, Zara, and H&M are reportedly forming unions as a response to this, but are instead met with layoffs and assault..
- Crime #3: Environmental damage, destruction, and contamination
Lower priced items for the customers, bigger margins for the retailers, and jobs for the ‘unemployable’ and poor.
Cut down on the rights and lives of garment workers.
● The only evidence needed: The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world.
Next to the oil industry, we have the fashion industry coming in at a strong second as the biggest polluter in the world. There are a lot of statistics and facts to take in, so let us simplify things for you:
10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions come from the fast fashion industry. That’s more than the emissions coming from international flights and maritime shipping combined! These emissions come from the coal powered garment factories mainly located in China, Bangladesh, or India who produce clothes that make use of fossil fuel. You heard that right, the synthetic fibers used in most clothes are made from fossil fuel.
35% of ocean microplastics come from water runoff of laundered clothes that make use of synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, nylon). Yup, 60% of clothes today are also made out of plastic meaning it would take at least 200 years for one shirt to decompose!
20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide comes from the runoffs of fertilizers for cotton and textile dyeing. These chemicals and toxins find its way back to us in two (2) ways:
Drinking - The runoffs are dumped in freshwater, which we end up drinking causing diseases and premature deaths.
Eating - The water containing these runoffs are used in watering crops that we eat.
Speaking of water, this industry is the second largest consumer of water in the world! In fact, it takes 700 gallons of water to create one (chemical infused) cotton shirt. This industry uses up water so much that it was able to dry up one of the world’s largest lakes, the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, because of cotton farming. BTW, were you able to spot the connection between the water depletion for cotton and the forced cotton picking labor in this country all for that cotton shirt?
On the topic of depletion, rainforests are also going bald in order to create land to plant cotton and wood-based fabrics like rayon, viscose, and modal. 70 million trees are annually cut down for this.
Desertification and degradation of soil is also largely due to the chemicals being used to grow cotton and overgrazing of pastures to source cashmere and wool from goats and sheep. In fact, 90% of Mongolia is now at risk of desertification for the price of cashmere while Patagonia is at 30% due to sheep grazing for wool.
An abundance of cheap resources and raw materials. Wearing down the environment.
True to its name, the fast fashion industry was able to dress up their crimes in clothing that can hide them and churn out designs fast enough to make people forget. Perhaps what makes this industry dangerous is how big of a silent killer and polluter it is. Others would turn a blindeye because of how involved we are in it as a shopper and wearer of these brands but most are not even aware of these crimes to begin with.
However, movements have been happening to undress the disguise the fast fashion industry has clothed themselves in. It is also now our responsibility to be the fashion police ourselves to help put a stop to this.
Here’s what we can do:
1. Chances are you already own clothes from fast fashion brands, but throwaway culture is also bad. Maximize already what you currently have up to the very end of its life cycle. Did you know that only 10% of donated clothes end up getting sold and the rest go in landfills? So, think twice before purchasing an item only for you to discard after a few wears.
2. Upcycle your shoes and clothes to other uses -- rags, washcloths, pet clothes, and even create an entirely new clothing item out of an old one!
3. Support brands and businesses with sustainable and ethical practices. These brands are more than transparent in their systems and it shows with just a quick search on their websites! If they tend to leave out room for gray areas, then that’s an indication that something may not be right.
4. Buy and wear sustainable clothes! Check out this fiber eco-review made by Sustain Your Style to find out the fibers we should both look for and avoid when purchasing clothes. Realize that the price tag of these clothes are such because we are paying for quality pieces, fair labor, and sustainably sourced materials.
5. Demand more from existing fast fashion brands, businesses, and retailers! Demand responsibility and accountability from them. Let them know that there is a demand for more sustainable and ethical products and practices so they may change their way of business to help make slow fashion more accessible for everyone everywhere.
The verdict is in and the jury says the fashion industry is guilty on all accounts punishable for immediate termination and transition to slow, ethical, and sustainable fashion. So, wear your fashion police badges proudly and let’s get to work!
Music by: Jonny Element