Today, we’re looking at the connections between fashion, racism, and climate change. We’re exposing the impact that fashion and colonialism have had on our world and the lives of those who manufacture our clothes.
Why is fast fashion unfair? Should we continue to support fast fashion?
Why is fast fashion unfair?
Fast fashion is unfair because the fast fashion giants present serious environmental and health risks for low-income countries. Moreover, low cost labor can get serious poverty, diseases as well as encourage crimes.
Again, just ask yourself one question: Is fashion really important?
Fast fashion refers to how firms mass-produce inexpensive, disposable apparel in a short period of time in order to maximize profit and meet market demand. It has grown in popularity as a low-cost option for consumers to engage in the ever-changing fashion trends. This rapid fashion business model, however, fosters overconsumption, resulting in environmental waste and inequality for those who make our goods.
Because of the lack of transparency in the fashion supply chain, firms and employers have been able to get away with underpaying their employees and failing to provide safe working conditions. Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo are two of the most well-known fast fashion retailers in the United Kingdom. Some garment workers in their Leicester plants are paid as little as £2-3 per hour. The majority of these garment workers are racialized women, and one-third were born outside of the United Kingdom. They are particularly exposed to labor exploitation and human rights violations due to a lack of legal permission to work documents and a language barrier.
Because of the globalization of supply chains, large firms seeking to reduce production and manufacturing costs are looking to low-income nations such as India, Bangladesh, and China, where labor is inexpensive. To put things into perspective, low to middle-income countries manufacture 90% of the world’s clothing while facing environmental and racial injustice while attempting to suit the needs of wealthy firms and consumers.
The fast fashion business follows a colonial economic paradigm in which countries exploit natural resources and labor to export inexpensive garments to the rest of the world. Women of color are exploited and devalued as a result of the fast fashion model; 74% of the 80 million garment workers are women of color, and many are paid less than £20 a week. Women’s health is also neglected since they are exposed to harmful chemicals and fabric dust throughout the textile manufacturing process.
High-income countries have contributed the most to climate change, but low-income countries bear the brunt of the environmental consequences. For low-income countries, the textile sector poses major environmental and health problems. The discharge of untreated harmful dyes and chemicals from textile mills into neighboring rivers affects local waterway systems and jeopardizes local people’s resources and livelihood. Cotton is one of the most significant fiber crops in the textile industry, accounting for more than 40% of worldwide textile production. Cotton is water-intensive, requiring more than 250 billion tons of water each year. Cotton is an important source of income for many low-income countries around the world. 90% of the world’s cotton growers live in low- to middle-income nations, yet due to climate change, market swings, and Western subsidies, cotton farmers struggle to make a fair living.