Cheap fashion comes at a steep cost

September 8, 2020 2:07 PM

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Racks of clothing stand outside a storefront with a sign that reads "€12." Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Racks of clothing stand outside a storefront with a sign that reads "€12." Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Dear Hype Beasts,  

Growing up as a middle child, I didn’t get new clothes often. My sister and I, despite being three years apart, shared most of our clothes. My sister is now taller than me by a half foot, and so despite being older than her, I get her unused pieces.

My mom always repurposed tattered clothing. We would make it into washrags, dusters and pass down our old clothing down to our cousins. We would experiment with projects making hair ties and other crafts to repurpose old clothing. We made fast fashion be as slow as we possibly could.

Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing made by huge retailers to keep up with the trends and it is harmful to the environment and garment workers. We tend to keep and hold onto our clothes for shorter periods of time than we used to over a decade ago.

Who supplies the need for new clothes every season? And where do those clothes go when we’re bored of it? Maybe it’ll end up being sold and worn again, or worse landfills. We use too many nonrenewable resources to produce clothing that ends up in the back of our closet. What we don’t know is that the clothing we wear is created at the expense of others not having an adequate quality of life and being exploited. 

According to research done by Oxfam, 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers earned a living wage. This enables the cycle of poverty, and binds these communities to provide cheap clothing at their expense. Without giving garment workers the living wage and adequate working conditions, it doesn’t allow garment workers much mobility and confines them to the work they do. The exploitation of garment workers allows our clothes to be cheap, at the expense of other people. 

The solution here is pretty simple. Pay workers a living wage, and use recycled/deadstock fabric. We already have more than enough plastic waste, so we should repurpose what we have. Outsourcing clothing allows companies to underpay their workers, and not pay them a livable wage. Workers work in dangerous conditions to create clothing that will be in landfills after one season of wear. Companies like Beekeeper Parade and OhSevenDays use deadstock fabric to create new pieces. Minimal waste companies like these reuse the materials we already have. This is an example of repurposing unused fabrics, called deadstock, and circular fashion. Circular fashion is reusing materials to produce different items until it is unusable. Also, we don’t have to follow each fashion trend. If you don’t see yourself wearing it long term, maybe hold off on purchasing it. 

Having a whole system of sustainable clothing is impossible. But trying to lessen the impact on the environment is something we can strive for. Cheap clothing comes at a cost, even if it isn’t out of your own pocket.

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