Fast Fashion - Winners and Losers

Go to any city with a young population and just look at what the people around you are wearing.

Everybody has a kind of style. Some more refined than others. From shoes to hats. From scarfs to jewellery. If you're in the shopping district in a trendy city or around the nightlife,  people look, well, pretty cool.

Sure you get the occasional dad holding a pram outside the supermarket with his flared jeans from the 80's and a pair of dirty, white tennis shoes. And perhaps you get the occasional dude who thinks the gangsta print on his jeans is supercool. But a lot of people are pretty fashionable these days. 

Well fashion is cheap. Just go to one of these familiar stores and make yourself look sexy.

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Visit any of these stores during peak times and you can guarantee that they will be heaving with hungry shoppers. You'll wait for 15 mins in the line for the fitting rooms. You'll awkwardly shuffle past people on the packed shopfloor.

These guys must be dressing half the population of the city. 

And you've probably become accustom to simply throwing used clothes in the trash. Because they're stretched out of shape, the colour has faded and nobody will buy them on Ebay. But that's ok, since they were so cheap in the first place.

Clothes shopping is really just a part of everyday life.

 

THE WINNERS

 

The first set of winners? Us. The general public.

Its the 21st century and there is more freedom than ever around what you wear. Fashion can make you look and feel good. Everybody can be a celebrity on the red carpet, to an extent. You can use fashion to show that you're querky, sophisticated, into music, alternative, wealthy, outgoing, nerdy or that you don't give a fuck what people think (While you hope everybody notices that you don't give a fuck what people think). 

The world of fashion is awesome isn't it? 

This is the modern world and we can all walk around looking like celebrities for a low price tag.

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Time to talk about the second set of winners. 

Inditex, the owner of major fashion outlets Zara and Bershka, made net profits of $654million from 1st February- 20th April 2017. Amancio Ortega,  Inditex's founder, has a net worth of 78.4 billion dollers. 

H&M's net profit in the second quarter, which runs from Mar. 1, 2017 to May 31, 2017, was $687 million. Stefan Persson, owner of H&M has a net worth of 18.2 billion dollers. 

Fast- fashion is making a small number of people incredibly rich. Well, that's capitalism I suppose. They built a huge business from the ground up, I guess they deserve their riches right?

So what's the problem? Why even bother writing an article.

 

 

WHERE THERE ARE WINNERS, THERE MUST ALSO BE LOSERS.

 

 

 

THE LOSERS

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Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And this is also true for actions on a mass scale. As fast fashion was created, so was the textile industry in Bangladesh and China. 

 

There is no other possible way for these clothes to be available at such cheap prices, other than fashion stores using factories that pay their workers next to nothing. The current average wage for an employee in a textile factory in Bangaldesh is $35.64 (US Dollers) a month. This is around 11% of what is calculated to be a living wage in Bangaladesh. 

 

And what are the conditions like? Many are forced to work 14-16 hours a day seven days a week, with some workers finishing at 3am only to start again the same morning at 7.30am. On top of this, workers face unsafe, cramped and hazardous conditions which often lead to work injuries and factory fires. Sexual harassment and discrimination is widespread and many women workers have reported that the right to maternity leave is not upheld by employers. Factory management also take steps to prevent the formation of trade unions.

 

It can be easy to forget that every single worker at one of these factories is an individual, just like you. No description given here can truly explain the experience of working in one of these factories. 

 

They have to work in these factories in order to survive. To put this even more bluntly, they have to show up to work at the factory or they will die from starvation. And so will their children.

 

So lets call these people exactly what they are. Slaves. 

 

And then there's this: 

This is the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013. An eight story textile factory that housed a number of well known brands such as Walmart, J.C. Penny and Joe Fresh . The disaster killed 1,130 people and injured thousands more. 

According to media reports, workers at Rana Plaza saw the cracks in the huge structure the day before the collapse but the authorities did not take any precautionary steps. The following day workers were forced back into the building to work, being assured that the building was fine. A few hours later, the building collapsed on their heads. Amongst the rubble, was clothes ready to be sent to Walmart.

And make no mistake about it, the clothes that you buy from these stores are made in the exact same factories. If you were to attach a a microscopic camera to one of the shirts in your wardrobe, you would be able to watch as the shirt was made in the factory, shipped across to whichever western country you reside in, put on the shelves and then bought by yourself. 

As an exercise, go to your wardrobe, pick up the first item of clothing you see and check the tag. The chances are high that it will say made in Bangladesh, China or India. 

All of the major fashion stores use these factories. And yet everybody happily buys from them. Why don't people care more about this reality? Well just look at their advertising. 

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Attractive people looking stylish. Wonderful. And of course the place that these clothes actually came from remains in the shadows. 

Now people vote with their dollers. When people buy something they are essentially voting for what they like. But a 16 year old consumer has no idea what they're "voting" for, especially when the only reference to the origin of the clothing is this:

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Many people have no idea where their clothes come from. Others will have a vague idea, but it's rarely in the forefront of their minds when clothes shopping.

And why would it be, there's no mention of it anywhere. 

Not on the advertising, not in the shopfloor and not on the clothes themselves. 

Would it be so unreasonable to make the origins of their clothes clear to the general public. Even a simple statement such as "These clothes were made by people earning less than a living wage" on the label and on their advertisements. 

If people are going to vote with their dollars, they need to know what they're voting for. 

And lets make something abundantly clear, the fashion outlets we buy from know exactly how their clothes are made. That's why they choose to use the factories in Bangaladesh in the first place. Because Bangaladesh is the cheapest country on the planet to produce these clothes, second to China a country that many companies also use. 

They choose the factories that pay their workers the least amount possible, so they can increase their profit margins and dominate their competition. In fact, any fashion outlet that uses ethical means of production doesn't stand a chance of competing with the big names. 

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Next time you see David Beckham on a major fashion outlets' advertising, just remember exactly what these fashion outlets produce. Yes they produce nice clothes at a low price, but they also produce slave labour. 

It's up to people to decide whether they care about that or not, but they should at least be aware of where their clothes come from.