Fast fashion: the idea that when it comes to textiles and garments, cheaper is better and supply and demand should constantly increase. This cycle of quick production and sales has been the backbone of modern fashion consumerism since the industrial revolution. But when what you need to stay on trend and under budget becomes top priority of a country's consumers, what goes on behind the scenes is often ignored. For most, taking a trip to the mall is the most convenient and wallet-friendly way to keep up with ever-changing standards and styles, but what does that low price tag look like for those who make the over 150 billion garments produced each year? The fact is that fast fashion comes at a price, and it's more than that $5.99 tank top at Forever 21. Forty-six million people are currently forced laborers, and many of them work within the textile and fashion industries. With the number of modern day slaves so high, it's vital that each of us do our part to kick fast fashion and its unethical impact to the curb.. Here's how:
The first step to becoming a more ethical consumer is to become familiar with brands and their practices. Do they pay workers a fair wage? Do they provide employees with sufficient breaks throughout the day? If the answer to these and the following questions is "no" then it is time to stop purchasing from them. Popular offenders include Nike, Victoria's Secret, and Forever 21.
Things to consider when researching a brand:
a) Do they employ children under 16 years of age? (If the answer is "yes," then that is a good indicator that they're a red flag brand.)
b) Is their equipment up to code and safe for operation?
c) Do they use forced or child labor to source their materials (pick cotton, spin synthetics, etc.)?
d) Have they had any past controversies with their polices or practices?
2. Buy less.
When it comes to clothing, fast fashion wants to encourage purchase after purchase. The reality? Spending money on sustainably sourced and ethically produced goods is something that not only creates long lasting, good quality wardrobes, but lowers the demand for sweatshops and forced labor.
Ask these questions before making a purchase:
a) How many ways can this be worn?
b) Will this be in style for a long period of time?
c) Is this a "must-have" or an "already have something like this"?
3. Buy local.
Yes, it may take more time and slightly more money to seek out and buy items that don't harm other people, but making simple switches like buying accessories and basic garments from artisans and small shops instead of the mall is a step in the fight to end the fast fashion industry. By supporting brands that uphold ethical values instead of money-hungry big businesses, fast fashion will slowly become unappealing and one day, obsolete.
Take it a step further:
Seek out brands that are not only sustainable and ethical, but ones that support ideas and organizations that align with any personal beliefs. In a world where fast fashion reigns, help send the message that a worker's well-being is more important than a garment on a rack.