No one needs to die for fashion

I have nothing to wear fast fashion

Before becoming a slow fashion advocate, I was part of the fast-fashion problem. I’m not proud of my behaviour. I purchased far more clothes than I could wear in my entire life and most of them ended up in a charity shop. My shopping motto was “more is more” and like many other women, being Carrie Bradshaw was my aspiration “I like my money right where I can see it: hanging in my closet”. We can talk about how Sex and The City ruined my life – and my bank account – but how it’s still one of my favourites tv shows another time.

My transition from shopaholic to a slow fashion advocate coincided with the beginning of my journey into “real life adulthood.” Oh, yes. It was as simple as starting to work and having to pay my bills. Pretty sad actually. That’s how irresponsible and selfish I was.

It’s even harder when you can’t stop comparing yourself to others. You start dressing yourself to impress people that you don’t even know on social media and this is just the beginning. No one has as many clothes and jewellery as those influencers you follow. I really believe that social media is ruining our identity at some point in our lives.

After setting social media aside for a while and focussing all my attention on my mental health and my personal growth, trying to listen to my heart, I realised that if I was demanding better treatment for our shared planet and the animals, I should give up fast fashion. Not just because the fashion industry has a disastrous impact on the environment. Also, because the big issue of fast fashion is that impacts many different areas in human rights.

The hidden human cost of fast fashion

The fast fashion industry is often called out for the exploitative working conditions in its factories that are staffed primarily by impoverished women – especially in Asia. Many of these workers toil for little pay and have few rights, largely so clothing manufacturers in Europe and the US can keep costs low.

Working conditions in the textile industry are very bad. Especially in India and Bangladesh where there is a huge discrimination against women. The salaries are very, very low and abuse is a daily reality for female workers.

Some people might ask “what keeps women working in this industry?” It is as simple as poverty. There are not many work opportunities for women to find jobs in other industries. In addition, India and Bangladesh are under a very patriarchal society which leads to women not being treated as human beings.

Bangladesh is the largest exporter of ready-made garments after China. © Palash Khan/Reuters

Why it is our duty to care about the working conditions in the factory?

I understand that these problems seem very away but just recently in Europe, we all watched brands waiting for the government to offer funds/subsidies for their employees and then closing their doors. Other ones forcing their employees to work during the start of the pandemic when most of the population was self-isolating.

We have to speak up for those who do not have the freedom to speak for themselves. Our governments are allowing these industries to be enriched by the suffering of these people. Fast-fashion only works if there is oppression involved.

Five things you can do right now:

1.     Stop buying so much. Make thoughtful purchases and take extra time to buy. Before buying anything, I leave it in the shopping basket for a week or even two and if I still want it, I consider buying it – but not before asking myself one more time why and how many times I’m going to be able to use it.

2.     Buy more second hand, if you can. I’m not saying that you should stop buying fast fashion overnight but just as an idea, there’re amazing apps out there as Depop or Vinted where you can find your favourite fast fashion brands without promoting exploitative work conditions and helping the environment giving used clothing another life, because otherwise, they can end up discarded in landfills.

3.     Unsubscribe from Fast Fashion emails. This is the best tip that I can give you so far. This really small step changed my life. Way too much temptation to see these emails in my inbox, especially during sales. Sales can help us save us money. However, most of the times, we spend more money than usual in things that we don’t need. Also, delete their apps from your phone if you want to avoid shopping.

4.     Do some research. Take time to discover new slow fashion brands and make sure that you’re investing your money wisely. If we share the same environmental and human rights values, read the labels wisely and be aware of the best eco-friendly materials.  

5.     Fight against fast fashion. You don’t need thousands of followers to make your voice heard. Anyone can join the movement. Take your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, to ask fashions brands about production practise or share through your feed or Stories posts, articles, books, videos that you find interesting.

How are you fighting fast fashion? I know that sometimes this whole subject can be overwhelming. Would you like me to cover a specific topic that could help you?

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