Women & the Fast Fashion Industry
80% of our clothes are made by women between 18 - 24 years old, earning less than three dollars for a 14 hour work day. According to Forbes, “it takes a garment worker 18 months to earn what a fashion brand CEO makes on their lunch break”. This is the reality of 75 million factory workers in the fast fashion industry.
Labor rights violations are unsettlingly common, and practiced in the fast fashion industry. Forced labor, intolerance of unions, as well as disregard to rules and regulations regarding paid maternity leave are just some of the highlighted issues regarding fast fashion factories.
Aside from the obvious humanitarian issues presented in the industry, women who have experienced sexual harassment on the job are not few and far between. A study conducted by China’s Sunflower Women Workers Centre concluded that 70% of women had experienced sexual harassment while working in the garment or textile industry. On the opposite end of the fashion industry, models experience sexual harassment within a power play of higher ups of whom are all covering for one another. The fashion industry, much like Hollywood, has become infested with abusers who take advantage of power. Power that allows them to get away with harassment and abuse; promising models everything they have ever dreamed of. Parallel to other industrial hierarchies, the Fashion industry is due for lots of changes.
Unsafe working environments for garment factory employees are also not uncommon. Unsupervised, faulty, and deteriorating equipment cause fires; in the case of the Baldia Factory fire of which no less than 250 people fell victim to, it is believed this fire could have been avoided if proper procedures and inspections had taken place. It is said by workers involved with bleach and hazardous chemicals that they are often not provided minimal equipment such as gloves or masks.
Fast fashion has little regard for human rights, and does not value hardworking individuals whom have, and will continue to endure intense labor, sexual harassment, and unsafe working conditions. This industry seems almost unavoidable for many people, as it is everywhere, and these ugly truths hide behind pretty storefronts. grows when we are taught to value brand name over human rights. Choosing to vote with your money by supporting sustainable brands, second hand stores, and vintage clothing collections are a few simple ways to support the slow fashion movement. As consumers, we are able not only to boycott, but we are able to buycott. This means supporting those who go against the tide, and standing up to the industry by saying “yes” to businesses whose values align with our own.
Vintage clothing; the cleanest thing since metal straws. Something that many people neglect to think about regarding the word “sustainability” is fashion. However, fast fashion is one of the biggest contributors to pollution and waste; in fact, it is the second biggest polluter in the world, second only to fossil fuels.
Though many people donate the clothing that goes unworn for a number of years, In the United States, only 10% of donated clothing is resold. The rest? Well, the remaining 90% ends up in landfills, where it will remain for hundreds of years filling the planet with toxic chemicals. This is the result of fast fashion, garments manufactured within this industry typically fall apart due to cheap material deeming them unable to be resold. The Ellen McArthur Foundation conducted a study concluding that one garbage truck of materials is wasted every second in the world of fast fashion. The study also concluded that clothes are responsible for releasing half a million of tonnes of microfibers into our oceans yearly, which is equivalent to the damage of a surplus of 50 billion plastic bottles. Along with these toxic chemicals, waste, and microfibers, fast fashion is responsible for large amounts of rainforest destruction, and greenhouse gas emissions. Even rayon and viscose, two materials marketed as environmentally conscious, sometimes come from plants located in severely endangered rainforests.
So, what can we do as consumers to combat this environmental detriment? The most simple answer is to buy less clothing. Something I remember my parents telling me when I was 14. This solution is simple, and most obviously effective, but not something my 14 year old self wanted to do, or went through with. Another solution is to buy from thrift stores, consignment shops, or vintage boutiques. This way, we are able to essentially recycle in style. Though there is no guarantee that these garments are environmentally sound either, buying second-hand is always a better option than contributing to the world of fast fashion.
Vintage never goes out of style, and neither should being environmentally conscious. This ideology is where the Avenir Vert motto “timeless shades of green” stems from. These truths have led me to pursue environmental activism through the approach of vintage clothing. Understandably, buying vintage clothing may not save the world, but I believe that if there is any way we as people, and more relevantly, consumers are able to make a change, even if it is not monumental, we should do so. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau once said, “don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything”. I find this quote to be inspiring in regards to a world where we are bombarded with threats about the inevitable death of our planet due to our own neglect. Environmental stability may not be right around the corner, but together we as consumers have the power to cast a vote, and Avenir Vert exists to serve that power, as well as our planet.