Not only does the fashion industry negatively impact each one of us individually and personally, but it also has global ramifications, especially for women.
A recent cause has been popping up in the fashion industry, a call to arms for “ethical fashion.” On the surface, this cause may simply seem to be a push for “Made in the USA” products, but at its heart, this isn't a cause only about American jobs and products. Ethical fashion is about ethical treatment, pay, and safe environments for those who are literally making the products we buy and throw away every day.
The Big Fashion Houses Don’t Want Us To Dig Further into This
They want us to be more concerned about saving money and buying the newest trend at a fraction of the cost, rather than wondering about who made the clothes and under what circumstances. But the problem goes back a long way, to when fashion houses would only turn out four fashion seasons: fall, winter, spring, summer. Whenever designers used to put their fashions on the runway, other second-, third-, and fourth-tier fashion warehouses would replicate this fashion to put in their stores so that someone who couldn't afford a $487 shirt on the runway could afford the same type of shirt made by a department store for $45.
The problem now is that new fashion trends are introduced far more frequently. Instead of four fashion seasons, there are 52 seasons—every week is its own season. And these new fashion trends that are being pushed to the consumer every seven days are cheap. Very cheap. This allows the customer to spend more in an attempt to keep up with what’s “in,” even though it will be “out” in a week. Boutiques and clothing department stores can't keep up with the demand of 52 weeks of new fashion . . . and this is where the concept of fast fashion was born.
The makers of fast fashion are in third world countries where men and women are paid less than $4 a day.
Fast fashion is the ability to send off new designs and have them made in record time. They're made cheaply and sold cheaply. However, the people making these “great buys” for us are treated just as cheaply. The makers of fast fashion are in third world countries where men and women (but mostly women) are treated like cattle with poor working conditions and are paid less than four dollars a day. Women are pressured into having abortions just to keep their jobs, and they often send away whatever kids they do have to be raised by relatives because their clothing-factory jobs mean at least 12-hour days almost every single day.
Not Only Are the Working Conditions Harsh, but They Can Also Be Deadly
On April 24, 2013, one of these fast-fashion garment factories in Bangladesh, India, collapsed, killing 1,134 people who were crushed and trapped by the rubble. The day before the collapse, an engineer had examined the building and deemed it unsafe. Yet, in the name of the almighty dollar, the owner forced his employees to return to work the next day.
This factory is just one drop in a bucket. There are over 5,000 garment factories in Bangladesh alone. Ever wonder how stores can produce the newest, trendiest outfit just days after a celebrity wore it? Fast fashion. H&M is the poster child for fast fashion. Walk into one of their fashion megastores, and you won’t recognize or find what you saw the week before. Here, fashion moves at the speed of greed. They’ve even pushed a line called Conscious Collection with celebrity spokespeople such as Olivia Wilde. But why have a “conscious collection” when your regular collection treats people so unconscionably?
But why have a “conscious collection” when your regular collection treats people so unconscionably?
The beauty and fashion industries want us to become so busy with trying to keep up with the latest trend that we forget to ask if we should be consuming so much and at what cost. Would you buy a cheap shirt knowing that it cost someone their hand? Or even their life? I hope not. We can aid others around the world when we bypass fast fashion. When we don’t really need to buy a new outfit, we should seriously consider practicing self-control and step back from the mindset of needing a new closetful of clothes every week. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need more clothes. I need more peace. And sadly, I can’t find that at the mall or on Amazon.
We live in a world that's all about excess and the temporary pleasure we get from replacing the new with the latest. From our phones to our clothes, everything is good enough until the next version comes out. Then it’s out with the old and in with the new. Materialism constantly nags at us, trying to make us believe we need more in order to be happy. And, sadly, we get more at others’ expense.
Materialism constantly nags at us, trying to make us believe we need more in order to be happy. And, sadly, we get more at others’ expense.
A few years ago, as an antidote to the consumerist spirit of our culture, I did the Closet Challenge for the first time. This was an idea that my friend Sarah Kroger and I came up with, where we wore only seven items of clothing for thirty days. While it sounds restrictive, it was actually liberating. The fundamental goal of the Closet Challenge was to instill gratitude for what we already have and to help us learn to live with less. By eliminating the abundance of our clothing options, we hoped to have more time to reflect on and be more grateful for all the blessings already in our lives. Let me tell you; it was an amazing, eye-opening time. I strongly encourage you to try it.
We’re all searching for value, for love, for beauty. While there is nothing wrong with looking good, we’ve sadly elevated it to a height that's unreachable, even by us. And yet we keep trying, fueled by comparison and competition. And so we forget who we are and that we're all in this together. This is the highest cost of imitation beauty: the loss of both who we are and the community.