To What Extent Is Fast Fashion Ethical: Opinion Essay
What is Fast Fashion? It is the mass production of inexpensive clothing by mass market retailers to keep up with the latest trends. The fast fashion industry provides efforts for higher wages, benefits the lower income families in developing countries and it employs an abundance of people. However, there are also numerous detrimental harms to this successful industry. The production of garments causes negative environmental effects, lack of conditions for factory workers and places societal pressure on young individuals. There are multiple effective outcomes to the fast fashion industry despite the terrible effects.
Who said huge industry companies do not show considerate humane feelings about their workers? Popularly known corporations are asking to raise the minimum wages for garment workers. According to Bajaj, in January, H&M, Wal-Mart, Gap, Tesco and other Western clothing buyers asked the Bangladeshi government to raise the minimum wage and reset it every year (2010). A spokeswoman for H&M, Malin Bjorne, said the company was willing to pay more for clothing to help support higher wages. The stigma that there are low wages for the factory workers is widely talked about negatively but there is a positive outlook on their wage pays. The garment workers are spoken about as if they are completely forgotten when they are thought about from the known establishments.
Hiring people that are struggling in poverty can be employed by these factories to assist with their families if needed. As reported by Manik, Bangladesh now has more than 5,000 garment factories, employing more than 3.2 million workers, many of them women, and advocates credit the industry for lifting people out of poverty, even with such low wages (2013). Although, there are negative connotations on the fast fashion industry there is no doubt there are good advantages to it. The fashion industry employs individuals with the opportunities to work and help their families especially ones in poverty. As the infamous saying goes, ‘Something is Better Than Nothing’. Boycotting clothes made in these poor countries could potentially hurt the garment workers even more as Liang stated (2017). The favorable circumstance of obtaining a job to support their selves and their loved ones boosts the economy and the fashion industry immensely.
There are multiple organizations that exist currently that are working on bettering the environment and helping spread awareness. As reported by Drennan, Patagonia launched its Footprint Chronicles in 2007, which sparked not only a new approach to clothing manufacture, but also to supply-chain transparency and brand-to-customer communication (2015). The shift towards transparency and awareness assists with inspiring other businesses to follow and to help consumers better interpret the processes behind the clothing they purchase. This is helpful as conscious consumers enjoy being aware of what they are getting their selves into.
Furthermore, one of the benefits of fast fashion is that it provides employment to people that are in need of a job. According to Bart L MacCarthy and P G S A Jayarathne, there were over two million people employed in the clothing industry across the EU (2010). Also, in the U.S. there were approximately 1.9 million workers in November of 2018. The drastic employment of individuals helps the retail businesses and the employees by them assisting with tasks and also the employees can get paid. According to Härtsiä, in 2014 apparel manufacturing employed 24.8 million people and textiles and clothing employed 57.8 million people (2018). Despite the unpleasant remarks on the topic of fast fashion, it definitely helps the economic status of millions of families all over the world.
From an environmental stance, there needs to be a push for recycling globally. According to Mukherjee, more than 13 million tons of textiles were disposed of in the U.S. (2015). Only 15% was diverted from landfills or waste systems. The lack of recycling causes landfills to release Green House Gases. It is easier for consumers to throw unwanted clothes away then to take it to a recycling center. As stated from All Africa Global Media, more than $120 billion worth of unused fabrics sits in warehouses, waiting to be burned or buried (2018). We can use this as a way to connect designers and textile firms with the dead stock of useable fabrics instead of wasting the materials. In addition, according to All Africa Global Media, textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans (2018). This excessive use of natural resources damages the earth further down the line. The continuous use can lead to climate change. Though, individuals are aware of the use of natural resources to support our lifestyles are a threat there is close to none coverage on the topic. As reported by
The fast fashion industry has caused unnecessary financial spending’s. According to Rosenthal, consumers spend more than $1 trillion a year on clothing and textiles, an estimated one-third of that in Western Europe, another third in North America, and about a quarter in Asia (2010). This statistic shows the vast amounts of money being spent from various countries. As typically known, there are only four seasons in a year: spring, summer, autumn/ fall and winter. In the fashion industry there are 52 micro-seasons meaning new trends coming out every single week. Reason being is because of the constant need to freshen retail stores with new and exciting apparel. Mass market retailers acknowledge that consumers would not visit their store often if there was nothing brand new to see and purchase. This then encourages consumers to visit their stores more frequently with the idea of ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’. Consumers are given more variety and options to choose from with fast fashion’s weekly seasons.
Have consumers ever thought about the makings behind their clothing apparel and how it ever came about? The ethics behind garment factory workers in developing countries are rarely thought and spoken about in society. The overall care for these workers is extremely poor and are not given their deserved rights as human beings. As stated by Taplin, there were 1,127 factory workers killed in the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2014). The building had failed an inspection, but employees were told they had to keep working there anyways according to Liang (2017). This incident shows that there is a complete absence of concern for the individuals producing the garments. The European and American mass market retailers like Zara, H&M and Forever 21 do not take responsibility or care for their workers. As reported by Manik, the minimum wage for them is $37 a month, being that Bangladesh has the lowest labor costs in the world (2013). These low labor costs have attracted majorly known global companies like Walmart, Gap and Sears. Reason why, these companies attract to countries that have multiple factories that are paying their workers low is because it means the production costs for them will be significantly cheap.
The effects of the cotton farmers who works at small operations in countries like West Africa, India and Guatemala are affected also. According to Drennan, pesticides are often sprayed by hand on these farms, and in many cases the equipment used is faulty. The farm workers might not be given protective clothing or adequate training in how to use, store or dispose of the pesticides (2015). The lack of health safety is crucial to the workers on the cotton farms. The infamous companies are using this same cotton for their clothing. The farmers spending long hours are at health risks because of the toxic chemicals being inhaled and the crippled equipment.
Work is an important role as it affects multiple attributes in one’s life. Moreover, the workers in factories are treated with no second thoughts of their health or wellbeing at all. How can someone live a peaceful and prosperous life when working in a gruesome environment for most of their lives? According to Boje, 77 percent of workers tested in one production department are to have suffered respiratory problems (1998). The women workers are especially treated terribly. When they are pregnant, they are quickly fired to avoid having to pay for maternity benefits required by law. The treatment of women workers especially should not have to experience the scarring conditions. The workers also have no voice to defend themselves so they are then forced to stay.
The fast fashion manufacturing business has young individuals, especially adolescent teenage girls believing their bodies are not ideal enough. They grew up watching media form how young girls are supposed to look like. According to Reaves, one of the most salient eating disorders, anorexia nervosa or deliberate self-starvation, has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, resulting in the death of between 10% to 20% of its victims (2004). The women being affected by anorexia rely on these magazines for body image gratification and as motivation for greater food constraint. The readers of the magazines are heavily influenced to believe the fake imagery of these unrealistic expectations. These fashion models are photoshopped to appeal more to readers which provides false advertisement. To young adolescents this is what they rely on to validate their selves. The models are promoted as “natural” however it is the result of untrue images. Specifically, models and celebrities are icons to young teenagers. Reason, why magazine editors are so silent on journalistic ethics, is because they need the model to be appealing to readers eyes and fit society’s aesthetic. The magazine and fashion illustrations are one of the culprits to body issues like bulimia and body dysmorphic disorders.
In conclusion, the research I have gathered in writing this essay has been shocking. I have determined that I am strongly against fast fashion more so as there are more negatives compared to positives. In exploring both sides, I found it much easier to find unfavorable articles to counteract the very miniscule positive viewpoints. I truly believe that fast fashion has horrifying impacts on the environment and garment workers. The unnecessary use of natural resources is completely unneeded and so are the excessive hours and conditions of workers. Nobody should have to work excruciatingly long hours to gain a living. The enforcement of the workers is completely inhumane and is closely related to illegal slave labor. The damaging effects of this booming industry can be prevented. Spreading awareness to others is crucial as some are ignorant to the makings of their garments and are feeding into the fast fashion business. Consumers play a very impactful role in this clothing exchange and should be able to have knowledge of what they are putting their money into.