Today marks the two year anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, which is discussed in my original “What is Fast Fashion?” post below. I got a ton of questions, comments, and appreciative notes from girls who didn’t know what was happening in the fast fashion industry, and I hope it’s motivated you guys to take a more critical look at your shopping habits.
I know I can’t force anyone to stop buying fast fashion, but I do hope to inspire people to look deeper into the brands they endorse and support. Don’t feel bad for how you’ve shopped in the past – be honest with yourself now and become a smarter shopper for the future.
The Fashion Revolution – a global coalition of designers, academics, writers, business leaders, and parliamentarians – sees the Rana Plaza disaster of April 24, 2013 as a metaphorical call to arms. Fashion Revolution Day is held annually on this day to commemorate the tragedy and generate awareness about fast fashion practices. Fashion Revolution Day’s mission is to keep the most vulnerable in the supply chain in the public eye, and show the world that change is possible. Read more about their mission and why we need a fashion revolution here.
Stop looking at the knockoff designs and cheap price tags of your favorite fast fashion brands, and start looking into the people who make them. I promise – you’ll be
surprised horrified when you learn the truth. I originally wrote this post in October of 2014 to share what I learned after I first discovered how fast fashion, well… happened. And let’s be real, we’ve all turned a blind eye to it for a long time.
I don’t think anyone is stupid enough to think clothes costing mere dollars can actually be made in a fair, ethical manner… But we want to save a buck and shop a lot more than care, so we turn a blind eye to the inhumane truth on the other end of the manufacturing line. We chant, “ignorance is bliss!” while checking out our new supercute fast fashion fit in the mirror.
More like, ignorance is deadly.
My purpose with researching and writing about fast fashion is not to call anyone out or make you feel bad for your current shopping habits. I’m writing in hopes that I get you thinking. Like, did you know most of the factory workers in the Rana Plaza tragedy were women, aged 18-20 making a range of 12 to 24 cents per hour? PER. HOUR. They work 90-100 hours a week and are given two days off a month. When I was 18, I babysat and made over $20 an hour, and thought I was working way harder and deserved more (obviously). What a fucking reality check.
We should all be fully aware of the truth of this industry by now – buying fast fashion means supporting brands who outsource their labor to parts of the world like Bangladesh because it is much cheaper than domestically so the COMPANY has a greater profit margin.
Your money is going to, I don’t know, the H&M heir who just became the youngest billionaire in Europe, or the CEO of Missguided, which reported a 90% jump in turnover and ~100M pounds in sales for 2014. But those workers slaving over your clothes, the actual goods you paid for? They won’t see any of that. Inditex, Zara’s parent company, generated over 22 BILLION DOLLARS in sales for 2013 – the year Rana Plaza collapsed. The company had 22 billion dollars in sales and all the workers who died only made a whopping 12 to 24 cents an hour.
So… Tell me how you can justify buying fast fashion because it’s cheap, when that’s how the costs actually work out. Even if you have no money and think it’s “all you can afford,” if you have an ounce of integrity, you’ll realize there is no excuse or justification for shopping there. Don’t believe me? Start in your own closet with this experiment – I dare you.
- Dump your entire wardrobe out in your room and count all the items you have in total.
- Try to remember (write down) their estimated retail value per piece. Think of how many times you’ve worn it, what’s the cost per wear?
- How long has it been since you wore it? Is it in good condition or has it fallen apart?
- Does it actually fit properly or look flattering?
Now, if there are any pieces you don’t totally love, don’t look good, are in poor condition, or you don’t really want – add up the estimated retail cost of all those. If you had been more aware of what you needed, wanted, or already had, and didn’t buy any of those items – would you have enough theoretical cash to spring for a few quality pieces that you could wear over and over? Probably.
So, can you really only afford fast fashion or do you just think at the time because you’re not planning, that it’s your only option? What you see in the glossy Instagram photos is not the reality of the situation. Wake up and smell the sweatshop. There are affordable, ethical alternatives and other ways to get around the “fast fashion is cheap and convenient and I’m broke” excuse. Be creative. After all, fashion is a creative form of self expression.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can afford a quality wardrobe. You just have to commit to being a conscious shopper and caring about what you wear. Ask your clothes, who made you? Not, what did you cost. Because even if it was only a few dollars to you, would you have still bought it knowing the real exchange was actually a few human lives?
(Note: This post was originally published on October 7, 2014)
What is fast fashion? It’s more than just the ever changing styles for you to buy at Zara, or the designer-made-affordable collections available for H&M. In reality, it is so much more than that… and I’m Regina George.
Fast fashion is faux fashion. It’s the art of ripping off true creativity and cutting the corners of what makes fashion art… and therefore fashion itself.
Workers are toiling away exhausted in sweatshops for far less than fair pay so you can wear some cheaply made good… once or twice? The average American is estimated to waste 68 pounds of textile annually – we’re all expected to put 68 pounds of waste like the synthetic materials of cheaply manufactured clothes into a landfill, which can take fooorever to break down.
Oh, and those materials? They have things like lead in them, which not only increases your risk of infertility, increased risk of heart attack and high blood pressure but is also a concern for pregnancy as lead accumulation in the bones can be released and harmful to you and the baby. Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Forever 21 and more fast fashion chains – they still sell lead contaminated items above the legal amount. Get educated, read a few more truths the industry has been hiding in this article.
Thanks to the fact social media never sleeps – the thirst for a cheap, poorly made piece of polyester suddenly is always real and you’re constantly lusting after the latest whoever designer collection for H&M. I know, and I’m here to quench your thirst with a strong glass of truth about fast fashion and present a few issues with the industry.
US News. Read the full article if you dare…
I also feel like the rise of glorified
Instagram models fashion bloggers thanks to social media (along with a brand’s additional social presence and marketing) has contributed to the glorification and general “trend” appreciation for fast fashion… Instagram is a huge traffic generator to e-commerce platforms which many fast fashion retailers are profiting off of sales by volume. There’s blogger incentives of affiliate linking for $$$, plus partnerships and free clothes from brands like Zara, H&M, Primark, Nasty Gal, etc. etc. etc. which are just churning out replica items (ripping off real designers) faster than everyone else. This is a terrible game.
Fast fashion giants blatantly rip off designs to turn them out to the market faster, and constantly face copyright infringement lawsuits… but now make enough money to fund a legal department, thus you don’t hear much of it in “mass” (paid) media. They’re publicly glorified there because they also throw all their money (really, this is your money at work! are you proud?) into PR and social campaigns, which engage the likes of these kinds of fashion bloggers that I don’t care much for. If you’re too interested in the free clothes part of the job to research the company that wants to collab, you can’t sit with me.
I’m ranting because once I realized money that I earned slaving away at my desk job, doing real work for… was going to a company like Zara, I had a big moment of can’t. Some important info: Zara/Inditex (its parent company) is one of the companies that was housed and working in Rana Plaza.
There’s absolutely no reason good enough to convince me they deserve another of my fairly earned dollars. I’m going to keep hating on Zara because I actually featured their blouse once. Zara is my Gretchen Weiners and I’m gonna crack her, k? #SayCrackAgain. Anyway, Inditex paid up so at least they’ve acknowledged they’re an army of skanks.
Have you ever been trying on clothes at Zara and get mildly annoyed knowing that no sizing would be consistent or uniform and you should really just bring back two mediums of the same blouse into the dressing room to make sure?! I thought little of why that happens – I pretty much assumed the truth would be some flavor of unforgivable, and the convenience of fast fashion chains was just so nice. And it’s so fun to know there’s going to be new inventory and styles online for you to peek at and snap up for the week to come before it sold out and there’s more new to waste your money on!
Last year Inditex reportedly generated 22.25 billion dollars in sales… nearly 2/3 of this was from Zara. I think it’s safe to say that most of Zara’s money is made because its buyers have been *previously* unaware of the conditions in which its garments are made. I would expect Zara’s buying population to also be largely female – that being modern betches like you and I, the ones working hard to earn the money we have to spend on clothes. We do have control over this situation – we have purchasing power. GIRL POWER! Be choosier about what you buy. Next week I’m going to highlight some brands and sites to shop from so you can have ethical, sustainable AND fashionable alternative options right at your fingertips.
I don’t expect anyone to be able to quit supporting fast fashion immediately… but since learning what it really is and how the industry operates, I can’t allow myself to support any brand or company guilty of that classification. Unless you have no soul, you too should have trouble continuing to support it. Sorry not sorry to be the one to break it to you, but we should all know better than to buy into fast fashion… I hope that you learned something and this helps you become a conscious consumer and more aware of who – and what – brands you support.