The real price of your clothes

Fast fashion 2

Hello again! Fast fashion creates significant ethical and ecological issues which is why I decided to come back to the topic with another blog. Due to the impact of your decisions to support fast fashion, I think it is critical raising awareness about the truth behind it.

But why do we buy fast fashion?

Fast fashion provides clothes that are trendy but originally very expensive (1). Fast fashion brands such as Missguided, Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Boohoo, Super Nova, etc. produce these new trendy items quickly and cheaply enough so that people who are on a budget can be trendy too. For example, the original sock-like trendy sneakers cost 770 pounds but Zara can give them to you for some 60 bucks (1). In my opinion, fast fashion brands are rightly accused of promoting overconsumption and creating the feeling that you never have enough clothes or that you are always out of fashion (2, 3). And they have numerous reasons to do so.

Firstly, the way fast fashion brands earn money is by selling as many items as possible for the lowest prices possible which makes them try to create more consumer demand and use the cheapest materials, the cheapest labour, the cheapest ways of production. Secondly, the traditional two well-defined seasons: autumn-winter and spring-summer have transitioned into a yearlong shopping season (1) where people buy clothes for each different occasion and think of what they need next. This business model creates many issues you need to be aware of.

The dirty secrets of fast fashion

Such fast fashion brands hide a terrible route-to-market history. Some of the issues come from the fact that big clothing brands you love, like Mango, GAP, Zara (Inditex), H&M, Next, Primark use factories in different developing countries where the wages are a lot lower and do not care about the way they produce the garments for them (9, 10). The main priority in the contract between these brands and the factories is the production price (10). This ignorance leads to inhumane and ecologically disastrous practices in the production process of your ‘cheap’ clothes. And it’s best for these brands that you stay uninformed.

The real price of your clothes

One of these practices is child labour. In order to achieve such low prices many fast fashion brands employ children to do work that is dangerous and harmful to them (3, 4); in worst cases, they are enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to illnesses and left on the streets (5). Human rights are once again disobeyed with the exploitation of workers, abuse- sexual, physical and mental (6), terrible working conditions leading to deaths through several disastrous incidents. For example, one such incident killed 1,100 people in a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh five years ago (7). Additionally, these factories pollute clean water, air and soil, seeking after the ‘cheapest’ ways of production (see 8).

Conclusion

Now you can answer yourself- is 3 pounds the real price of that top you are willing to buy and who did pay the rest of the cost?

 

By Kalina Georgieva

References:

  1. Houston, J. (2019) ‘Sneaky ways stores like H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo get you to spend more money on clothes’, Business Insider, 15 January;
  2. Petter, O. (2019) ‘FAST FASHION: Bohoo and Missguided among worst offenders in sustainability inquiry’, Independent, 30th January;
  3. Lohr, S. (2014) 5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know, Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/5-truths-the-fast-fashion_n_5690575 (Accessed: 6th April 2019);
  4. International Labour Office (2017) Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and trends, 2012, 2016, Geneva, Switzerland: ILO Publications;
  5. International Labour Organisation (2019) What is child labour?, Available at: http://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm (Accessed: 4th April 2019);
  6. Hodal, K. (2018) ‘Abuse is daily reality for female garment workers for Gap and H&M, says report’, The Guardian, 5th June;
  7. University of Sussex (2017) New study shows ‘fast fashion’ continues to risk garment workers’ health and well-being, Available at: https://phys.org/news/2017-11-fast-fashion-garment-workers-health.html (Accessed: 17th April 2019);
  8. Dalton, R. (2017) 5 Of Fast Fashion’s Worst Environmental Impacts, Available at: https://wellmadeclothes.com/articles/5OfFastFashionsWorstEnvironmentalImpacts/(Accessed: 17th April 2019);
  9. Manik, J., A. and Yardley, A. (2013) ‘Building Collapse in Bangladesh Leaves Scores Dead Inspectors found cracks in the building’s structure the day before it collapsed, local news reports said. Credit A.M. Ahad/Associated Press Image’, The New York Times, 24th April;
  10. Chao, R. (2013) ‘Dhaka factory collapse: how far can businesses be held responsible?’, The Guardian, 16th May;
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