Fast fashion is taking the world by storm. Zara, H&M, Forever21 are all brands that we love because not only are the products fashionable; they’re affordable too. We browse the internet to compare product categories such as quality, price, and value. However, we don’t often think about where our items come from or who makes them when we are shopping.
While we indulge over our $5 finds at Forever21 and sometimes make unconscious purchases that we may or may not even wear, we need to become more conscious of what we are doing. Cost of producing clothing is determined by cost of labor and materials. This means clothing production is likely to relocate to countries where labor costs are lower. Working conditions and labor laws are often violated which means child labor and sweatshops are very common. Employees work shifts up to 16 hours a day in unsafe building conditions that can result in building collapses and fires. Many workers are not allowed to have days off and are exposed to harmful chemicals that can cause illnesses. In some places, there are forced abortion policies on women. Please, let us not support this behavior.
Here’s some more facts:
246 million children under 15 years old are involved in Child Labor
Every year 22,000 children die in work-related accidents (and some are as young as 5 years old)
Over 2 million women and teenagers work in sweatshop conditions
About 80% of apparel workers producing clothing for U.S. retailers are working in sweatshops
More than 11,000 sweatshops INSIDE the U.S. violated the minimum wage and overtime laws, while over 16,000 had broken health and safety laws
Now you wonder why it matters what your product is made of. Well, most of textiles are made up of insecticides and pesticides. These poisons are cancer causing and the farmers working in these crops are exposed to these every single day. Even farmers working in organic fields experience health problems, so those working in a dangerous environment full of toxins have a higher risk of cancer and even death. These toxins also add to the pollution in our air. Buying organic goods means you are supporting a healthier lifestyle for the farmers and their families and are actually higher quality products with a more appealing tangible touch.
How to tell if a company is sustainable:
They make it a core value and will incorporate it in their “About” page
Statements including the speed, time, and volume are only working as selling points to you. Watch for “timeless”, “carefully curated”, “better”, “smaller”, “made to last” as key words to get their customers to buy.
Check the tags, where was the clothing made?
Bangladesh is a popular spot for unethical clothing practices. Sweatshops and child labor are popular among the low-income countries as jobs are limited. Hanes is produced here.
Look for: linen, hemp, Tencel (lyocell), organic cotton, and any recycled or organic textiles
Ethical brands to shop:
Patagonia- fair labor, recycled and organic goods
Matt & Nat- 100% vegan and sustainable materials
Reformation- sustainable fabrics, fair practices, produced mainly in U.S.
American Apparel- vertical integration: every step in the supply chain is controlled by American Apparel and made in the U.S.; organic line of goods feat. Organic cotton
Eileen Fisher- fair trade, sustainable materials and practices, organic linen clothing
Everlane- ethical production
People Tree- fair trade, organic cotton collections, biodegradable materials
Alternative Apparel- ethical production, fair labor, sustainable materials
For more information, watch the documentary “The True Cost” (found on Netflix)
Thank you Hannah for the thumbnail photo.