Did you know that 80% of garment workers are women 18-24 years old? Who make, on average, $97 a month? Which boils down to less than $3 a day? Compare that to Victoria’s Secret CEO’s annual salary of $4.3 million.
Fast fashion brands are exploiting women each and every day to produce the micro-trends that end up in our closets — and in our landfills. Brands like H&M and Zara are not only hurting the planet, they’re hurting thousands of women worldwide in order to produce that $12 tank top we all just needed.
There’s a reason these brands are so cheap, and it’s because they’re not paying their workers. And we’re not exaggerating. While many garment workers aren’t paid a living wage to begin with, some aren’t paid at all. Wage theft is happening left and right, and it’s leaving thousands of women without money to put food on their table.
When people think about sustainable fashion, they often focus on the environmental aspect, but there’s a social component that can’t be ignored. Fast fashion is a women’s rights issue, and anyone who advocates for more sustainable fashion would be remiss to oversee that.
As Heidi Kaluza, ethical fashion activist, put it: “you can’t empower women in one country, by exploiting women in another”.
We’ve gotten a little too comfortable with fast fashion prices, and have forgotten to ask the tough questions. But that’s coming to an end. The truth behind fast fashion is coming out, and it’s becoming a bit too difficult to ignore.
From thrifting, to supporting small brands, to upcycling what you already have, there are a handful of ways to keep your closet interesting without having to support fast fashion brands. And while we wish we could all quit cold turkey, we know it’s a bit trickier than that.
It takes time to phase fast fashion out of your life, and the first step isn’t throwing out everything in your closet (which will only make matters worse). It starts with taking a look at what you already have, and deciding how you might be able to make the most of it. How can you create multiple outfits with the same pieces? Do you have some older items you never wear that a friend might enjoy? Maybe it’s time to get those pants hemmed that you’ve never worn because they’re too long for you?
Once we’ve exhausted all of our closet’s options, and it comes time to do some shopping, we just need to make sure we’re asking the right questions: Who made this item? Can we trust they were paid a living wage? What materials were used? Are those materials eco-friendly?
The list goes on and on, but overall it’s a mindset change that is pretty crucial for not just our planet, but for all the lovely ladies who inhabit it.
Special thanks to Remake, a non profit organization on a mission to end fast fashion, for the stats presented in this piece. Consider donating to Remake to support their work.