This is not an article about what women should or should not wear. It is an article about what it means for women to wear clothes that come from Fast Fashion.
Fast fashion and women
80% of the people who make our clothes are young women, aged 18-24.
Labor Behind the Label's report on working conditions in Cambodian garment factories found that poor ventilation and heat, lack of access to water, overwork and exposure to chemicals in the factories lead to frequent fainting and malnutrition among women workers.
In the fateful Rana Plaza accident in Bangladesh, where the entire building, which was dedicated to the manufacture of big brands such as Benetton, Primark, Mango or Inditex, collapsed causing 1,129 deaths, 80% were women and children.
What is the impact of fast fashion?
Fast fashion is characterised by offering the latest trends at "affordable" prices. In order to keep prices low and reduce production costs, one of the main focuses of the fast fashion industry is on fabrics and dyes.
They rely on cheap, chemical dyes and their compounds leach into rivers and seas, causing the fashion industry to be considered the second biggest polluter of clean water in the world after agriculture. The documentary River Blue (2016), which chronicles the impact caused by fast fashion, shows how the water in many rivers in Asia has become a public health crisis with a high incidence of cancer, gastric and skin problems, affecting those who work in the textile industry or live nearby.
Women and climate change
We know that the textile industry has a major impact on climate change. It produces more carbon emissions than all international flights and shipping combined.
Natural disasters tend to affect women more than men. This disparity is greater in countries with a lower socio-economic profile or in developing countries.
Because of the existence of these gender inequalities that are perpetuated by customs, social practices and even economic structures, women are more vulnerable.
Climate change directly affects women's chances of achieving their own human rights and increases gender inequality.
Working conditions in the fashion industry
Most of the clothing offered by the fast fashion industry is manufactured in countries where women workers' rights are minimal or non-existent.
Although some brands say that they pay the legal base wage to their workers according to the country where they are working, the base wage does not ensure a living wage to survive on a day-to-day basis.
How many hours do they work?
Workers are often forced to work 14-16 hours a day. During the high season, their hours increase in order to meet brand deadlines. They are forced to accept these conditions because their wages are very low and they need any source of income to support themselves.
According to Unicef, 168 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are forced to work. The most common industries are those requiring unskilled labour. A very common practice in South India is to force girls from poor families to work in the textile industry in exchange for pay, a practice which, although prohibited, is still carried out and is considered "modern slavery".
ORGANISING IN TRADE UNIONS IS PROHIBITED
In most of these factories, workers are not allowed to organise in trade unions.
The factories also threaten and physically attack union members or fire them with impunity. Moreover, the pressure not to form unions goes further. Garment factories threaten and physically attack union members or fire them with impunity and encourage other workers not to organise.
We know it is hard to read this kind of information. This is happening today in the textile industry and it is a reality for most of its workers. Before buying, let's think if we really want to pay the real cost behind each fast fashion garment. Nobody is perfect and living in coherence with our values is very difficult if not impossible. But, if we are more and more conscious of our actions and we consume, little by little, products from those brands that share our values, we will progressively change things. Good things need attitude.
If you don't know where to start, here you have a step by step guide to a sustainable wardrobe, with tips that will help you to organise your clothes and to enjoy the clothes in your wardrobe 100% and in a sustainable way.