Features

Do you know where your clothes come from?

STELLA GEORGIAN

How our closets represent fast fashion

“Who made my clothes?” is a question many ask themselves, but very few can actually answer. New voices in the media are dedicated to finding that answer and an ultimate solution to it. With that comes taking an important look in the mirror, wallets, and behind the closed doors of beloved businesses.
What is fast fashion? Fast fashion is the life of fashion today. It’s the infrastructure of present day production methods, cycles, and how mainstream fashion thrives. Cheap prices. Low wages. Outsourcing. Quick, short trends. Waste. It’s the underground system of outsourcing goods and labor so U.S. businesses can make the most money possible. The downside of this production method is the corruption riddled in the backbone of its design.
By relying on cheap labor, clothing products are outsourced to third world countries’ factories. By quickly moving from trend to trend, a heavy trail of pollution follows the industry. By lying to customers by giving the illusion of sales, sustainability, and care, the modern day fashion industry commits horrendous acts and keeps the consumer in the dark.
“A lot of people don’t know what the true meaning of fair trade is. Most people know that fair trade means artists get paid a fair wage, there are good working conditions, and there is no child labor. But, there are other principles for fair trade,” said Ellen Cummings, the owner of Flavors Of Life, a fair trade certified store in New London,  Connecticut.
“The wholesale buyer doesn’t just buy the products-they invest in the community. It’s not just the exchange of goods; it’s an ethical way of doing business where you’re going to care about the people who are providing the products for you,” Cummings  explained.
Freda Gianakos, a fashion and design teacher at East Lyme High School agreed summarizing that the makers of such products are paid by how many pieces they make, like an assembly line, and items are outsourced at massive, unsustainable demands.
“Employment in the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry has declined by more than 80 percent (from about 900,000 to 150,000 jobs),” said Melissa Breyer, the editor for TreeHugger, a sustainable fashion  magazine.
What this means is that American consumers are reliant on third world countries’ labor.
“The people that are sustaining us are not being treated fairly,” said Cummings.
Knowing this is a responsibility.
One of the hardest issues embedded in this problem is that humans are natural consumers. They love fashion. They love trends. In America, fashion in like a currency. Giving up one of the most beloved industries or even facing an internal guilt for getting that H&M skirt is not something people want to face. Going to the mall doesn’t make people bad, but acknowleding the reality can be a beneficial step to a healthier, more awake world.
Thankfully, it is not all bad news. While there is still a long way to go, there are many movements in the works for combating the fashion industry’s current path. One of them being the expanding world of fair trade. Fair trade is a term used when a company meets nine ethical principles and has a completely different supply chain and production method to that of fast fashion.
Fair trade and ethical business implement a system where the people involved know where their product comes from; from the cotton to the cash register. This is a rising craft that has been successful in challenging the harmful narratives of fast fashion, and how consumers get products like chocolate, coffee, clothes, and similar products. Fair trade ensures a foundation of fair wages, respectful business relations, and no child  labor.
This ignites a fairer system and cycle that both gives and receives. Consumers can support healthy alternatives like this and second hand shopping such as thrifting or with apps like Depop.
The issue itself is not black and white, and the responses to it don’t have to be either. Slowly implementing ethical brands or even fair trade coffee makes a difference. What really matters is the awareness and understanding of the clothes on your back. Know the cost and think before you shop.

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