"ETHICAL FASHION IS THE RECOGNITION THAT THERE ARE HUMAN BEINGS BEHIND THE CLOTHES THAT WE WEAR." - Elizebeth Joy We have produced a handy little graphic of a few ethical clothing brands to embrace and a tonne of fast fashion brands to avoid in order become a more conscious consumer.

Let's be honest, consumerism is about buying things we don't need, with money we don't have, to impress people who do not have a direct impact on our lives. Our obsession with brands can be passed down by our parents and siblings or through the pressures of simply trying to 'fit in' but the real cause will always be the marketing firms who have manipulated and groomed generation after generation into believing we need what their client is selling. Years from now, we will look back on the fast fashion industry in the same way we look at the tobacco industry. When marketing agencies essentially tried to convince the world that smoking was actually healthy. Can you f**king believe that?

"The family doctor smokes 40 a day, you should too!" said nobody, ever.

So why are we blatantly ignoring the harm fast fashion has on the planet? Because we won't be here to see the affects? We are already seeing the effects. Because it doesn't directly affect us? It's not about us, sorry. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the people breaking their backs to create these garments at the pace inflicted on them by the brands we endorse.

Think about this? How the f**k are brands like Zara, H&M, Boohoo and Fashionova amongst a plethora of others, able to rip off the latest trend, source the material, produce the prototype, mass produce the final garment and have one on your doorstep within 24 hours for a less than the price of a round of drinks? How are they able to produce 52 collections a year? With approximately 25 new garments hitting the store each week?

Below are the brands who are the least transparent about the methods they use to create their collections. All just so happen to be multi-million, if not billion dollar companies.

Mehreen Tariq Ghani wrote "The garments they are supplied, come from factories that employ poverty-stricken children and women, who are paid starvation wages for working in horrific conditions. In many countries, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and more; where poverty and deprivation of basic necessities is a structural part of society, child labour and the sweatshop model of labour persists. Recruiters for the garment industry trap needy children and women, promising decent wages, meals three times a day and time off for school, and many go along willingly. The reality of their working conditions is far from the illusions they were shown."

According to a report by UNICEF, 170 million children are employed in the garment industry. Hands that should be holding books and pens, are toiling 12 hours a day, sewing, stitching and dyeing garments to satisfy global consumer demand for fast fashion. This is the reality for 11% of children in the world.

Numerous women and children work in sweatshops. Sweatshop is a term for a workplace with very poor, socially unacceptable or illegal working conditions. The work may be difficult, dangerous, climatically challenging or underpaid.

Below is a crucial, accessible piece by Hasan Minhaj as part of a netflix special. It is essential watching for those venturing into the world of conscious consumerism.

In order to understand the labour exploitation that goes on behind the scenes, let’s observe some statistics.

In Bangladesh over three million people, 85% of whom are women, work in the garment industry. A 2011 report Stitched Up about conditions in the garment industry found:

  • A garment factory helper’s wage starts at just £25 a month, far below a living wage.

  • 80% of workers work until 8pm or 10pm, after starting at 8am — in excess of the legal limit on working hours.

  • Three quarters of the women workers spoken to had been verbally abused at work and half had been beaten.

A report from, Taking Liberties, shows that the garment industry in India is deeply reliant on the sweatshop model of production and exploitation.

  • Factory helpers were paid £60 a month, less than half of the living wage.

  • Workers at some factories worked up to 140 hours of overtime each month, working until 2am.

  • 60% of workers were unable to meet production targets — in one factory the target for each worker was to produce 20 ladies shirts every hour.

Global Labour Justice (GLJ) published two reports detailing the exploitation and mistreatment of Asian female garment workers in H&M and Gap supplier factories — including (but not limited to) physical abuse, sexual harassment, poor work conditions, and forced overtime. Fashion Nova, is another brand found operating sweatshops in Los Angelos, USA consisting of mostly undocumented immigrants, paid below the minimum wage. From this we see sweatshops and labour exploitation are not issues faced by developing countries only. April 24th marked the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. It was an incident that sparked an international debate about where we source or clothes and our so-called addiction to 'fast fashion'. It shouldn't take a disaster to be the catalyst for change.

What can WE do? As a consumer, what can you do at your level to stop this issue? First, sign petitions that call for these companies to become more ethical such as the ones from Global Labour Justice. Additionally, become a moral consumer. Do not buy from brands that you know are unethical or engage in unethical labour practices. As a consumer of fast fashion, take more personal responsibility in ensuring that the products you consume are eco-friendly as well as from ethical sources.

Become curious; demand transparency over the production process and labour conditions inside a brand; raise concerns over issues of child labour and sweatshops; and exert the power you have as a consumer to pressure brands to take corporate social responsibility.

More importantly, avoid overconsumption, don’t buy into short-lived fashion trends. Make your clothes last longer, and if you want to throw out some clothes; either donate them or recycle them. Either buy second-hand, or rent clothes! You are also making an impact on the environment as the fast fashion industry accounts for 8% of global pollution according to a 2016 report.

By believing we hold no power as consumers, we absolve ourselves of personal responsibility towards these issues. But, consumers are the driving force behind unbridled capitalism, our demands form the direction that companies follow. If we show a preference for ethical brands, larger ones will be forced to comply with consumer preferences to protect their profit margins. We have to acknowledge the power and responsibility we hold in this system and use it to bring change."


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