Whilst we’re currently in lockdown, one activity to keep yourself busy might be some online shopping. Who doesn’t love a good retail therapy sesh? You might hop onto Pretty Little Thing or boohoo.com. You might come across a sexy, but sophisticated cropped white shirt – something you’ve been looking for, for yonks. You allow your eyes to process the price and – damn, what a bargain! You add it to your virtual ‘bag’ and start searching through your 7 different handbags and 26 different coat pockets to try and find your card for payment. But instead, out of nowhere, you come across this (chaotic, unorganised, I’m sorry) blog. And never again do you even CONSIDER contributing to the exploitation of garment workers. The exploiteghisk of what?! Yes, darling, I’m about to tell you why your £36 leopard print faux fur coat is really not as cool as you might think it is.
Fast fashion is what it sounds like. Fast. Some trends can go in and out of fashion as fast as my gerbil hops upstairs at the smell of a good, juicy apple. This ridiculous speed means that production, in the fast fashion industry, is on a scale bigger than my gerbil’s balls (a gerbil’s testicles expand in the Spring), creating a huge negative environmental impact. And when mom jeans are suddenly out of fashion? They’re disposed of, immediately, to move onto the next stupid craze. Tonnes and tonnes of waste, piled higher than my gerbil’s food tray (ok, I’ll stop now).
It was only a year ago (ish) that I became aware of this shit. There’s 18-year-old me sipping on her soya chocolate milk, thinking I’m doing my bit for the environment, being *mostly* vegan and recycling all my shit. But nooo, bitch. I was buying new school bags from Topshop, and eyeing up my friends new PLT dresses.
Fortunately, my brain is a little more clued-up now. I can spit facts like, 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill in the U.K. each week. I know, yikes. When I first read this statistic, I was expecting ‘per year’ rather than ‘each week’ at the end of the already concerning sentence. And then I read it again and realised that that’s just in the U.K, for fucks sake.
I don’t know who this Susannah woman is, but she makes a bloody good point. I’ll summarise the caption of her Instagram post for you: A report shared how ambulances have been called to the warehouses of Boohoo, PLT, ASOS, and Missguided over 300 times in the past 4 years, due to chest pain, breathing problems and fainting. Another report uncovered that some garment workers working in Leicester (the U.K.), are paid an average of £3 an hour – less than half the legal minimum wage. Most of these factorised are not unionised, meaning they can get away with wage exploitation. Some people seem to turn a blind eye to the exploitation because it doesn’t happen anywhere near us, in the U.K. Sorry hun, but you’ve just read that actually it does happen in the U.K., and even if it didn’t, how are you exploiting women in one country, and then empowering them in your own country?
If you live under a rock and don’t get out much, like me, you probably don’t know what Susannah means by ‘unionised’. After a cheeky Google search, I can now attempt to explain this to you, but please don’t sue me if I get this all wrong and if I am still in fact, none the wiser. If a factory is not unionised, there’s basically no legal stuff in place to ensure that the employees working conditions and wages are up to standard. A union is like the ‘middle man’, an organisation, between an employer and the employees. So, usually, you’d be able to go to your union and complain about the £3 an hour wage. They’d then negotiate a better wage. Job done.
But a negotiation isn’t an option for the garment workers, and so £3 an hour it is. Three quid per hour is why you can buy a T-shirt for a lower price than a coffee. But bitch please, your T-shirt should cost more than your coffee. You ain’t no cheap ass girl. You are CLASSY and you are a WOMAN. To some people (idiots), the fact that a top should be more expensive than a Starbucks Regular Latte will come as a surprise, which just shows how normalised this disgusting industry has become.
Well, ya gal is here to UN-normalise this bollocks. Here is a list of some of the worst fast fashion companies, about to get well and truly outed:
- Pretty Little Thing
- Nasty Gal
- New Look
This fast fashion is a feminist issue. If you’re female, and not a feminist, what the fuck. You’re actually some form of psychotic if you can happily get paid a lesser amount to do the same job as a male. If you’re male, and not a feminist, then you’re a misogynistic ass hole that clearly has no respect for your mum, your aunties, your sisters, girlfriend(s), etc. If you’re any other gender and not a feminist, well, I’m just outright confused, to be honest.
But who am I to assume that anyone reading my blog isn’t a feminist? You wouldn’t dare click on my page if you had even a hint of gender inequality in you. So, I may as well tell you how to fix this shit.
Many people argue that the way to fix this is not to avoid places like Missguided, as this just reduces the likelihood of the garment workers receiving money even more. Surely, we should be buying even more to fund their pockets, as most if not all of them struggle to find money for food, let alone accommodation. Nope – as Lucy Siegle points out, if you buy a £4 T-shirt from Asda, they keep £2.80 for themselves, give £1.18 to the supplier, and just 1.5p to the garment workers who made that T-shirt. So, by buying even more clothes, you’re just increasing the pressure on these women to work at ridiculous speeds, and you’re giving more power to the enemy, rather than balancing the power struggle.
So, what’s the most ethical and sustainable item you can wear? The one you already own, duh. There’s such an issue around the fact that some people refuse to wear the same outfit twice. If it’s a sexy af outfit, wear it TEN times hun. Wear it EVERYDAY for the rest of your life! And when you get bored of your own wardrobe, charity shops, and your sibling/partner’s wardrobe, these are the ethical, sustainable websites you should head to:
All these brands pay their employees fairly, in decent working conditions. More importantly though, they go further than just that. Take TALA, for example. The labels on their clothes are plantable – rather than chucking your label to waste, you can plant it to grow a plant. The washing instructions are sewn into the inside of the clothes, again, to reduce waste. Their packaging is completely biodegradable. And the actual clothes? They’re made out of recycled cotton, recycled water bottles and upcycled Nylon (this sounds excruciatingly uncomfortable, but I can confirm, they feel just as smooth as any other item of clothing would, if not smoother). For some of their items, you are literally wearing plastic bottles, looking sexy, and feeling good, all at the same time. Pure magic.
Most items on these sites are more expensive than what you may be used to, but this is how it should be, because they actually do things properly. Morally. Overtime, the prices will start to drop, once the general fashion industry starts taking climate change seriously.
The app, Depop, is a guilt-free and eco-friendly way to snap up that newest trend that you just need a piece of. You can buy and sell second hand clothes on the little red icon on your screen, so that the fibres end up not in landfill, but in a new home, to be worn and loved once again, all for a cheaper price. And the money doesn’t go anywhere near the big fast-fashion brands already-bursting wallets.
It’s sad how my list of sustainable brands is noticeably shorter than the fast fashion brands, but this list is growing and growing. We’re making progress, and soon, the only options we’ll have will be sexy recycled water bottles. The only way to change it though, is to control it ourselves. Where we choose to put our money, changes the industry. For each time you refuse to buy a new belt from ASOS, or compliment your little sisters shitty little Missguided skirt, we are one step closer to a more sustainable, ethical future.
Edit: download the Good On You app, and you can search a clothing brand to check how ethical and sustainable it is before purchasing anything. They rate brands out of 5 stars, based on the labour, the environmental aspects, and animal cruelty aspects. If you come to find that the brand you were interested in has a low rating, you can search by category on the app (e.g. ‘skirts’), and they will provide you a list of ethical and sustainable brands to choose from, with a range of price points.