PC: Michelle Donovan
Let’s Get Started.
Let’s get started by talking about what ethical fashion means. What defines ethical fashion?
Verena Erin Polowy, vlogger and founder of My Green Closet defines ethical fashion as, “Clothing that is made mindful of people, animals, and the earth. Companies where ethical policies are part of their framework and they are actively trying to reduce harm and improve conditions. Fashion that supports workers along the production line by paying living wages, providing safe and healthy work environments, and caring about (and taking steps to improve) their quality of life.”
I like this definition because it includes the impact that fashion has on “people, animals, and the earth.” All three need your consideration when shopping. All three are being negatively impacted by the fast fashion industry. All three can be helped when you shop conscientiously.
I can’t attempt to define ethical fashion without also defining fast fashion. Fast fashion has changed the way we shop. In the past designers, brands, and retailers had two to four annual seasons in which they would design, produce, or sell new collections. However, the world has gotten faster since then, and so has fashion. Customers no longer want to shop four times a year, they want to see and buy new items every day.
This leads to faster and cheaper production. Customers care less about quality and more about trends, upon which companies like Zara, Forever 21, and H&M have capitalized. Consumers have put so much pressure on the fashion industry to constantly put out new pieces, that retailers must compete to keep their attention. They often do so by producing trendy, but cheap products quickly. In order to keep costs down many companies outsource the production of their products to countries with little to no work regulations.
China, Bangladesh, and India are three popular production countries for fast fashion brands. Bangladesh has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world at around $2.22/hour. These wages are far from what workers need to cover their basic needs. In addition to low wage costs, companies keep costs down by sacrificing workers’ safety in horrific work conditions. On April 24, 2013 a commercial building containing clothing factories in Bangladesh, Rana Plaza, collapsed killing more than 1,100 people. Many of the victims were poorly paid textile workers who had no other choice but to work in a building that was clearly falling apart.
My point in explaining a little about fast fashion is to point out that when we shop brands and retailers who produce and sell on this model of fast fashion, then we support these low wages and despicable working conditions. Fast fashion has a negative impact in more ways than low wages and dangerous work environments. The industry also compromises the environment, harms animals, and much more. But, we’ll get to all that in upcoming posts. When we shop in this way we say, “I don’t care.”
But we should care. It’s our responsibility to care. This is why it’s important to know more about ethical fashion and how you can shop it. There are many ways to support the ethical side of the fashion industry, and I’m here to inform you on how to do so.