Fast fashion deserves the hate that comes its way. There’s exploitation of garment workers and acute lack of transparency pertaining to the supply chain. There are accusations of ‘greenwashing’ alongside a burgeoning culture of ‘rip offs’ because, well, creativity does not come cheap.
A new study by the UK-based Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has found that roughly half of the clothes on fast fashion websites are made from virgin plastics like nylon, acrylic and polyester. Who’s surprised? Literally nobody!
Fast fashion brands struggle to sustain a model built on ‘fair practices’ as they prioritise making trendy tees available to you for next to nothing. After all, nothing in this world comes for free and someone out there is paying the price for your cheap clothes. Clearly, fast fashion is dangerous and the problem needs fixing. So, stop buying it and make mindful choices, you’re told.
For starters, here’s how a ‘mindful’ consumer shops
1. Basically, a mindful consumer buys less and invests in clothes that last. “Instead of buying three cheap, disposable dresses, invest in one”, the argument goes. I wonder if the idea resonates with a fashion blogger whose every ‘look’ has to make it to the ’Gram.
2. They shop sustainable fashion. Even with the advent of a legion of sustainable brands in India, most of them remain inaccessible due to their bigger price tag. People still have to choose between being ‘fashionable’ and ‘sustainable’, and I wouldn’t blame them for wanting to buy cute and chic fashion.
3. They often thrift and buy pre-loved pieces. While Gen Z is fully on board with the idea, the rising demand has not only shot up the prices but the second-hand market is also flooded with terrible finds that will end up in the bin after one use.
4. They shop from brands that have a ‘fair’ track record, i.e, brands that are transparent about their supply chains, treat their workers ethically and pay them well. Also, they shop from brands that use environmentally-friendly fabrics. That requires a lot of research TBH! Shopping shouldn’t be such a task.
Hold fast fashion brands accountable, not the people who buy their clothes
Fast fashion makes the latest trends available to all at affordable prices. It is credited with democratising fashion by making accessible what was once reserved for the aristocrats and the upper strata of society. After all, fashion has always been as much a class marker as an expression of self.
“Through ethical boycotts of fast fashion, people from lower-income backgrounds are at risk of being left excluded from fashion as a whole,” argues journalist-activist Mary Atkinson in an op-ed for the Palatinate, one of the UK’s oldest student publications.
Image credit: Instagram/guardian
Note that most conversations regarding fashion and its damaging effects on the environment call out an individual’s choices. So much so that it has emboldened a privileged few to shame those who choose fast fashion, making ethical fashion discourse exclusionary, discriminatory and reeking of privilege. It also builds a sense of false ‘moral superiority’ among those who only shop, say, a shirt made from 100% organic cotton.
Boycotting is not the solution, convincing corporations to change their ways is
Not everyone can afford to shell out a major chunk of their income on quality clothes that are built to last. Moreover, not everybody wants to spend their time researching brands that practice fair trade and pay their workers well. So, it’s not so wise to demand blanket bans.
Remember that the garment manufacturing industry is one of the largest employers of women from the economically and socially weaker sections of society. “Boycotts put our jobs at risk. The last thing we want is brands to pull their orders out of Bangladesh. We need these jobs, but we need these jobs with dignity,” Kalpona Akter, the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, told Refinery 29.
While we’re asking the right questions, there’s a need to direct some of these towards those who sit at the helm of affairs at these corporations, and demand systematic change from the industry. Meanwhile, individuals can start by avoiding giving in to their sartorial cravings, every effing time!
Lead image credit: iStock, Instagram/sheinofficial