How much do you know about the health and safety of the people who make your clothing?

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How much do you know about the health and safety of the people who make your clothing?

Anna Hayward, Writer

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What comes to mind when you think of stores like Zara, H&M, or Forever 21? Maybe it’s their cheap prices, or trendy clothing, or how they don’t seem to last long before you throw them away.

What these three characteristics have in common are the main elements of a swiftly growing industry that you may not even know of. These companies are part of the fast fashion industry, an industry in which clothing is produced quickly in a cost-efficient manner to please customers’ fast-changing tastes. Because the price of this clothing is so cheap, the quality often suffers. Not only that, but also clothing always seems to go out of fashion before it gets worn out.

So who makes this clothing? Underpaid garment workers in developing countries like Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh, in particular, is one of the world’s largest garment exporters and one of the most dangerous countries to work in. On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,200 garment workers inside. This tragedy, among others, highlights the unsafe conditions that have become commonplace for fast fashion factories. Zara, Walmart and Mango are three popular companies that have all produced apparel in Rana Plaza factories. 

Since then, factory conditions have improved although not enough. Garment workers still do not have enough money or time to care for their families. Women can face daily physical and sexual abuse. Working conditions will continue to be unsafe if the fast fashion industry is continued to be supported.

What are some solutions to this problem?

Thrifting: Popularized recently by the internet, thrifting is buying clothing from second-hand and thrift shops instead of from fast fashion stores. Examples of some thrift stores are GoodWill, Savers, The Salvation Army, as well as any local thrift stores you may be near. Thrift stores have the stereotype of only having outdated clothing from the 70s, but they definitely have some hidden gems if you take a look around. It will take some sifting through clothing, but you won’t be sorry when you find flannels, sweaters or vintage Levi’s jeans for under $10!

Pros:

  • Cheap and ethical
  • Awesome vintage pieces

Cons:

  • Moderately time-consuming
  • Can be hard to find good pieces

Identify stores that don’t support the fast fashion industry: Stores such as PACT, Everlane, thredUP, and ABLE can all be ethical alternatives. (Check below for more complete lists!)

Pros:

  • High quality clothing
  • Often have great staple pieces

Cons:

  • Are more expensive than average clothing stores

Check out these resources:

Bangladesh: The Real Cost of Fast Fashion: https://pulitzercenter.org/projects/asia-bangledash-garment-industy-rana-plaza-building-collapse-fast-fashion-factory-foreign-owners-negligence-disaster

10 Best Affordable Brands for Ethical Fashion on a Budget: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/affordable-ethical-fashion-brands

A Complete Guide to Buying Ethical Clothes on a Budget: https://www.fastcompany.com/90217759/a-complete-guide-to-buying-ethical-clothes-on-a-budget

“Good On You” Ethical Fashion App:

https://goodonyou.eco/app/

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