Money runs the world. Every day we cast a vote with where we spend our money, or perhaps more importantly, where we don’t. Every dollar we spend confirms that we are okay with how big companies are operating, with who and what they are exploiting, and encourages them to see what they can get away with. Although it can be scary to take a look under the hood, the time has come to educate ourselves and take a stand for what we believe in.
The emergence of “fast fashion” has shifted the clothing industry away from the regular fall, winter, spring, summer model to a 52-week cycle. Monthly, weekly, and daily, new products are stocked by the fast fashion conglomerates with price tags cheap enough to throw away without a second thought. Over the past decade the cost of clothing has actually deflated while the initial input cost have steadily increased. The only way these companies are able to sell clothing for lower and lower prices is by cutting another cost: the production.
Globalized production is changing the way clothing is produced. In the 1960s, 95% of clothing was made in right in America. Today, 97% of clothing manufacturing is outsourced to developing countries where production costs are very, very low. When foreign manufacturers negotiate with Western companies they are forced to find a way to meet their low cost demands or lose the business. The powerless production workers take the brunt of it and are given reduced wages and are exposed to unsafe work conditions as a means to cut production costs.
Lives Lost in Vain
This was horrifically captured in the collapse of a clothing manufacturing plant in Bangladesh in 2013 that claimed the lives of many innocent workers. Concerns about the structural integrity of the building brought to light by the workers were blindsided by management, no doubt as a means to cut production costs. Over 1,000 workers lost their lives due to the pressure from the American fashion industry to deliver low priced products. This is only one example of countless accidents that have cost the lives of many thousands of garment workers. In the case of the 2013 collapse, 38 people were charged with murder in court, but the blood isn’t just on their hands.
The only reason there is a demand in the first place is because we as consumers are driving the want/need for cheaper and cheaper items. The cheaper they make them, the more we buy. In a way, each one of us is as much to blame for the deaths of these workers as the companies driving the sweatshops. This isn’t to say we wished this upon these workers. What it does illuminate is our individual responsibility to open our eyes to what is going on so that we can make educated, informed decisions about our purchases.
What can we do?
Stop shopping at large “fast fashion” conglomerates and make an effort to understand where your clothing is coming from. Spend your money on clothing that is made consciously by workers who are provided fair wages and safe work environments. You can also preserve the life of clothing already produced by shopping at second hand stores and doing clothing swaps with your community. Don’t turn a blind eye; put the emphasis back on the value of human life. No one deserves to lose their mother, sister, child or partner because you want a cheap shirt. Put the lives of the workers behind your purchase at the forefront of your mind.
Use Your Power to Make a Difference
We are nothing more than a big human family. There is no difference between your life and the life of a sweatshop worker in Bangladesh. Be grateful for what you have but be mindful of what others do not. Don’t blindly put your faith in big companies and recognize you can’t rely on them to make ethical decisions. Also realize that you cannot help what you do not know and make an effort to learn the story behind the products you purchase. The industry will not change unless we do; take responsibility for your purchases and lead by example. You are the key to making a difference. Be conscious of the way you vote with your dollar and watch the world change.
Educate Yourself Further:
“The True Cost” Documentary, Available on Netflix
Last modified: October 3, 2017