Ethical Fashion Musings

The Human Cost of Fast Fashion

Written by Jennifer Nini

When that garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh recently there were collective gasps of horror from ethical fashionistas and fair trade advocates across the globe. I was one of them.

I tweeted about it. I shared the news on Facebook. I was guilty of stalking the likes of Ecouterre, Peppermint Magazine and other green websites for more information. And still I feel I haven’t done enough to raise awareness of the demons of fast fashion.

If you have been living under a rock somewhere, and have no idea what happened, here it is in a nutshell: more than 1000 people lost their lives in a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.

It is bewildering that so many people perished in a building that was unsafe because scrupulous owners  paid no heed of an engineers’ advice to evacuate the building. It is shocking that a group of owners chose their manufacturing deadlines and profits over the safety of their workers. Workers who had the right to safe working conditions.

Although I guess in some way justice may prevail as the people in Bangladesh, grieving and coming to terms with this preventable disaster, push for murder charges against the owners of the building and demand capital punishment.

But it shouldn’t end there.

And it will if we as consumers stand idly by.

'Be the change you wish to see in the world' - Mahatma Gandhi Click To Tweet

Don’t wait for change, demand it

We have the power to make a difference and create positive change by voting with our dollars. If you purchase a $10 tee, do you ask yourself how it could cost so little? If you consider the price of fabric and materials, shipping costs, the cost of labour and the cost of adhering to safe working practices, do you think that $10 is a reasonable price to pay?

Well do you?

Any person wanting and working towards a fair and equitable world knows that the answer to that question is NO!

Fashion Revolution Day: Who Made My Clothes? Rachel Manns

Photo credit: Rachel Manns

Ask yourself: Who Made My Clothes?

So before you make a purchase, please consider these questions. The welcome side effects may just be that you start boycotting certain businesses with questionable ethics; start purchasing things that are fair trade, ethical and sustainable and reduce your consumption of fast fashion and things you don’t need in general.

And although some say ignorance is bliss, I am a big believer that knowledge is power.

In which case, now that YOU know, what are YOU going to do about it?

To show your support, check out Fashion Revolution Day, a day commemorating the lives lost but also a global initiative where we demand that enough is enough and ask for transparency from the brands we purchase and wear.

To learn more about how the fast fashion industry has impacted people and planet, we recommend you grab the book Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion.

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she began this blog to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she's not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.

7 Comments

  • It’s so challenging because more expensive things often have similarly crappy labor standards so I feel like I can’t reliably use more expensive prices to know that the labor standards were better (although, to your point, we do know that things that are cheap can’t possibly be good).

    I do wish there was more transparency with labor standards overall and better accreditation systems.

    • Thanks for your comment Jesse and let me just say firstly that I had a quick squizz of your blog and really like what I have read so far. Anyway, I understand completely what you are trying to say. There definitely needs to be better accreditation systems in place and it brings to mind one particular incident when I visited a factory in China (at the time I was considering manufacturing garments there). In one of the factories I visited, I found a whole of heap of garment labels with ‘Made in USA’ ‘Made in Australia’ basically labels that said made in another country other than China! Shocking! So yes I firmly believe that there needs to be more transparency but I guess that this is where we, as slow fashion advocates, come into play 🙂

  • I believe in buying the absolute best quality I can afford at any given moment, buying used when possible, etc., so I mostly get to sidestep this whole issue without much effort but I agree something needs to be done. The social conversation is increasingly about lower consumption but the buyers of fast fashion don’t seem to be listening.

    • I really appreciate your input Alicia. Aren’t we lucky now that at least vintage and second hand clothing is seen as cool and doesn’t have the stigma it once did when I was growing up!? I think that’s where we as vintage and recycled fashion lovers can start to sway the conversation. I will be helping a friend tomorrow do a wardrobe shop so it’ll be interesting to see what’s out there for him as it is hard to find anything sustainable and ethical when you go to a shopping centre (you call them malls over there:) And then to add to that, to find ethical and sustainable items for men is even more difficult as most of the eco fashion produced are for women… So let’s see how it goes! xx

    • Ange! Yes I know about this model! I have come across it many many times over the years. I was actually thinking about this last night! And I really think it could work if we could get used to sharing rather than wanting to ‘own’! Thanks I’ll bookmark this particular website now 🙂 x

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