A Need For Change In The Fashion Industry
Op-Ed by Anna Johnson
Without realizing it, you could be killing the environment and supporting the inhumane treatment of third-world employees. Many people don’t understand that the clothing they buy is made by underpaid laborers. Or that garment production leads to pollution. Or that billions of pounds of textiles end up in landfills each year. In a society fueled by materialistic values, we have become blind to the crumbling, dying world around us. The issue that lies at the heart of these worldwide problems is the fast fashion industry.
The definition of fast fashion is: “the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers” (Fast Fashion). Fast fashion companies promote the idea that people need more “stuff”. Instead of releasing new clothing four times a year for the four seasons of a year, fast fashion stores release new items weekly, prompting people to buy more often. Once people tire of their abundance of clothing, it’s thrown away. Each year Americans throw away approximately 12.8 million tons of textiles (Morgan) all of which ends up in landfills, slowly releasing toxins into the air.
Brands such as H&M, Forever 21, Zara or Walmart thrive on a system of cheap clothing and even cheaper labor. Most fast fashion companies produce their clothing in third world countries where garment workers sew for long hours and earn as little as $2 a day (Morgan). Employees work for cheap, prices on clothing goes down, people buy more of the inexpensive product, in turn, generate immense profit for those big brand companies. Fast fashion companies exploit their workers and prioritize profit.
To save money, manufacturers often disregard safety precautions. When this happens tragic accidents such as the 2013 Rana Plaza Collapse occur. After signs of structural failure were ignored, the commercial building collapsed, killing over 1100 people and injuring over 2000 (Rodriguez). Not only are laborers threatened by the locations in which they work, but also the materials they are using. The chemicals in tanned leather, and fabric dyes, and cotton pesticides all contribute to air and water pollution in these areas. Toxic work environments put people’s well-being and safety in jeopardy.
So, how can we change the way we think about clothing and make a positive change in the fashion industry? First, we must be more aware of the brands we are purchasing. If someone is unsure whether an article of clothing was made ethically, they shouldn’t buy it. Look for brands such as Everlane, Patagonia or People Tree that focus on fair trade, transparency, and the overall ethical production of clothing. Along with the origins of an item, we must also take into deeper consideration how much we actually like an item and if it will be worn more than once or twice. If we strove to purchase less, fast fashion companies would have no choice but to slow down.
Another smart alternative to buying fast fashion would be to search for clothing at local community second-hand shops. Thrift shops such as Value Village focus on reusing and recycling. Donations to their shop mean saving items from the landfill as well as donations to local nonprofits. Any unsold items are sold to local and worldwide businesses. A purchase at a second-hand store would mean one less purchase in support of fast fashion companies.
At the end of the day, we must be more thoughtful about how our decisions are affecting our world. If we all chose to buy less and think more about our purchases, we could improve the environment and lives of others.
This op-ed was submitted by a writer outside of the Warrior Word staff. If you are a writer, you can email your work to email@example.com for possible publication.
“Fast Fashion.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fast%20fashion.
Morgan, Andrew, director. The True Cost. The True Cost, truecostmovie.com/watch/the-true-cost.
Rodrigues, Daniel, and Cláudia BrandÃo. “The Real Cost of Cheap Shirts.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Apr. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/opinion/sunday/the-real-cost-of-cheap-shirts.html.