Don’t you just LOVE it when you click “confirm order” and you have your brand new, never worn clothes right at your front door the next day? Securing a beautiful blue crop top for only £7.99 and probably, still standing at the huge pile of clothes thinking “what on earth am I gonna wear tonight?”
I used to shop like this, and when I did, I only thought it was a problem for me and my bank account.
…And then I looked into it.
BEHIND THE SEAMS
Gone are the days of fashion being the glamorous industry it once was. You may have seen the campaign #whomademyclothes, started by Orsola de Castro, a feature in the unbelievable documentary The True Cost. She talks about the devastating reality of the fast fashion industry and its social impacts. If you haven’t seen this documentary — you need to, it highlights the effects of big brands making even cheaper clothing, even quicker, all in the name of profit.
The True Cost documentary unveils how, tragically, big brands have found a way to exploit workers in lesser developed countries because of their absolute need for work. There are 40 million garment workers, 85% of whom are women, who work approximately 96 hours a week to meet these impossible deadlines from big brands. They make 97% of our clothing and earn less than $3 a day. Reports say that if they don’t meet these deadlines, in horrible working conditions, they are often denied breaks, water, or are physically beaten and abused. The working conditions they face often include: (but aren’t limited to) poor ventilation, accidents and fires; one example being The Dhaka garment factory collapse in 2013, which killed 1132 people and injured 2500. The factory owner later deemed the building as safe to work in again, having initially ignored safety regulations and evacuation orders, and threatened to withhold pay from those who didn’t immediately return.
There are currently around 260 million children employed around the world, with 170 million being involved in the fashion industry on all levels, including the cotton picking industry. People in all parts of the world are subject to the harsh and harmful chemicals used in the production of clothes, causing generations of birth defects, mental disabilities and cancers, with no way of treating them.
These workers have tried to change their circumstances; protests for a higher living wage were held in Cambodia, which resulted in 3 workers being shot and killed, and many more injured. In some countries, workers are being paid a minimum wage, which is half to a fifth less than a liveable wage. These high street brands we usually love have found a way to get cheap, fast work in places where there are little to no worker’s rights, or unions to support them.
This isn’t just a fashion issue anymore, it’s a human rights issue.
FAIRTRADE, SUSTAINABLE CLOTHING
Hearing the sad truths of the fashion industry is hard, especially when it seems like there’s nothing we can do to help.
Luckily, What On Earth has created a gorgeous online boutique of sustainable brands, so that you can find your favourite pieces all in one place. These brands really are as ethical as they say they are, they even have a few sentences on the website introducing themselves, and showing you how they are doing better. As an e-commerce, we monitor this by asking brands to fill out a sustainability audit before becoming part of the What On Earth family. Whether brands use recycled plastic accessories, use deadstock fabrics or ensure safer working conditions and pay, by supporting brands like these, it will decrease the demand for the fast fashion industry, and you can wear clothes you adore knowing that everyone who produced them was treated fairly and kindly, and they had far less of a negative impact on the world to get to your front door.
Let’s create a fashion industry that isn’t going to harm the world. Why would you shop anywhere else?