Before the second coronavirus lockdown in Leicester, which highlighted the unacceptable, cramped working conditions and wages of around £3.50 per hour in several fast fashion factories, how many people would question how it was possible to buy a dress for just £4 from Boohoo, and ask the question, ‘Who made your clothes’?
In the world of fast fashion, companies are looking to save money. And what’s the quickest way to do it? Cheap and unfair labour practices. One such factory in Leicester has been accused of operating last week during the localised coronavirus lockdown without additional hygiene measures in place, according to an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times.
Sadly, sweatshops did not die out with the 19th century, or when Dicken’s was no longer around to write novels about them. In the 21st century, should we not have completely rid the world of these horrific working conditions and poor pay in the name of greed?
One thing I should highlight at this point is that paying more for your clothes doesn’t always mean you’re getting an ethically made garment – huge designer brands have their fingers in this dirty pie too – but a £4 price tag on a dress, should get some alarm bells ringing.
The good news is that shopping for fair trade and ethical fashion doesn’t have to be one of those things that leaves you with a warm feeling inside, and a big hole in your bank account. It can actually be cheaper than many designer brands, and in lots of cases, you can find bargains that beat the high street.
What can you do?
Sign, Support & Share
On that same page, you can download the poster below, to print and raise awareness of the importance of transparency in the industry. And why not take to social media and ask @boohoo to #GoTransparent. Keeping supply chains secret hides exploitation and illegal wages in the fashion industry.
Shop Ethical Brands
Ethical brands include those with fair trade and ethical sourcing policies. Not all stores are equal however, and some high street brands have only signed up to the bare minimum of commitments since Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. Therefore, if you want to make sure that no-one has suffered for you to wear your clothes, there are various ways you can check out the credentials of different brands, and find new ones.
You can easily search through the fashion section of my website for several brands I’ve featured, and you can also do your own research using Ethical Consumer Magazine and The Good Shopping Guide. Both of these websites allow to to compare and see the various score ratings for many of the common fashion brands on the high street, and online. Fair Trade is always a safe option if you’re not sure, and it doesn’t have to cost you much to help others towards a better life.
If you don’t have the budget for full priced ethical, fairly traded clothing – you can choose to shop in the sale without a guilty conscience. You’ll be helping the brand to secure items for next season – as advanced payments are vital in the fair trade fashion world. A few of my favourite ethical fashion brands include People Tree, Thought Clothing, Nomads and Komodo.
An even more cost-effective and fun way to reduce your fast fashion footprint is to buy clothes second-hand. Charity shops have some wonderous finds – you will support a good cause, stop perfectly good items of clothing going to landfill, and save the huge amount of resources it takes to make a new garment of clothing. That’s a triple win right there!
You can also buy second-hand clothing online, via websites such as Preloved, Ebay and Micolet. These sites offer a larger variety of clothing than you’ll find in a single charity shop. But I do love a day of charity shop bargain hunting when I need a new outfit – there’s a much bigger level of satisfaction than walking into a brand store and finding everything in one place, off the shelf. You can really create your own style from second-hand clothes.
Make Your Own Clothes
Making, adjusting or repairing your own clothes doesn’t have to be in the realm of fashion designers and seamstresses any longer. Sewing is a skill you can learn – from teaching yourself, to taking a class or a workshop (or two). Sew Fabulous in Brighton, is a community studio which offers weekly classes and workshops in the local area. If you look around, there’s a good chance you might find something similar near you. You could learn a new hobby, and make some beautiful creations.
In general, I like to keep my brand new purchases to a minimum now and only buy what I really need from ethical brands. I think about how much wear a garment will get before I buy it. I supplement this with charity shop buys, and often upcycle my old garments, giving them a new lease of life.
I hope you’ve been inspired to think twice about fast fashion. Thanks for reading! Have a lovely weekend!