Are You Stitched to Sweatshops?

“Shorts starting at $3.90!” “Basic Tees and Tanks $3.00!” Summer dresses starting at $10.00!” “Leggings just $1.99!” Reading through my emails, I come across deal after deal similar to these. Being a college student who loves fashion, this is an email that’s going to catch my attention and get me excited. This must be a great thing because the cost for clothing just keeps decreasing and fast fashion is ruling the industry. But is it great? Not many of us consider this, but the clothing you have on right now connects you to a large number of people that were involved in the production of that garment. For Forever 21, that connection is not positive
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The fashion industry used to produce lines for just Spring/Summer season and Fall/Winter season. Today, fast fashion companies are releasing 52 seasons a year (True Cost). New merchandise is constantly flowing into retail stores. The breath and depth of merchandise at places like Forever 21 are at an all time high. Forever 21’s website offers 34 pages of dresses with 60 dresses on each page. That’s 2,040 dresses not including color options. With fashionable product, never-ending options, and cheap prices; this store is almost irresistible.

Today 3% of fashion is made in the United States; the other 97% is outsourced because of the cheaper labor costs (The True Cost). It is easy to assume that since price is going down, the cost is also going down, but that isn’t the case. Production cost is continually rising. Regardless, our retail price is dropping. To make this possible, corners must be cut. The product is being made with very low quality. Low quality products don’t last us long at all and we are able to throw it away without thinking about it since it cost us very little to begin with. The formula for fast fashion equals fashion made at low quality, in inhumane working conditions, with no environmental concern. For ethical shopping to take over the fast fashion trend, consumers must leave the ignorance behind and become knowledgeable on the issue.

Fashion is a $3 Trillion dollar industry, why is it unable to benefit these people? One out of every 6 people works in the world of fashion (True Cost). It is a popular belief that sweatshops were supposed to improve these countries economies by creating jobs that weren’t there before. The media uses this approach to manipulate the consumer into believing its completely ethical the purchase these products.

With our fast fashion needs we are also creating awful environments for the people in these countries. 11 million tons of textile waste from Americans a year. This waste isn’t biodegradable and emits chemicals into the living areas (True Cost). Genetically modified cotton is being produced for apparel. This cotton is dosed in chemicals, like round up, that create a number of environmental problems (True Cost). Many people try to help the less fortunate by donating old clothes they don’t wear anymore, but most would be shocked to learn that only 10% of clothes we donate goes to the less fortunate (True Cost). The rest goes to the third world countries to deal with for disposal, leaving them with even more waste.

After first hearing of these problems I reflected on my own shopping habits. I think about the numerous trash bags I’ve dragged to a resale shop then instantly turned around and spent that $30 on 5 cheap Forever 21 shirts. I’m making strong efforts to change. I continue to expand my knowledge on the issue and now will buy one expensive, sustainable product instead of six cheap, disposable products. I find that spending more money on a product makes it more important to me; therefore I take better care of it. I also tell my family and friends of the issue at hand and constantly share articles and videos on my Facebook page. We are supposed to be this extremely connected global community but America loves is low quality products, made inhumanely, and pays no attention to environmental concerns. Ignorance is bliss to the consumers who don’t wish to contemplate such deep global issues while shopping for an outfit to wear this weekend. The rising ethical fashion market, the exposure of companies’ true practices, and self-regulation is necessary to end the suffering for the real fashion victims.

Related Articles: I Don’t Buy Fast Fashion, & Apparently People Don’t Like Me Because Of It