If you looked at your clothes, would you know the person who was responsible for them? You may know the place, but what about the person? Some people may think clothes just magically appear; others think it is merely a mindless machine. The truth is, there is a person, in fact many people, behind the clothes you wear. These people are mostly women, and yes sometimes children. They work long hours in a room full of chemicals, making mere dollars that is hardly enough to live a decent life. Why is this the case? Why are sweatshops still around and why do some people think sweatshops are a good thing? It is believed that sweatshops are sometimes the best options for people with harsh alternatives. But we should not be justifying sweatshops, we should be eliminating them. How do we does this you ask? With money.
“Every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” – Anna Lappe.
The consumer has an enormous amount of power and that is often overlooked. Where you invest your money is how you tell companies what type of world you want to live in. When you buy a cheap shirt from Forever 21, you are in a sense telling the company “hey I like this and I like that it’s cheap, keep it that way.” When they hear that they want to continue to please, so prices go lower and trends come out faster. In a world where we like things now, it is no surprise that people are really on board with new clothes fast and now. This is what the fast fashion industry relies on, and profits off of.
In our grandmother’s day, there was approximately four seasons a year in which new styles would be released. Today, fast fashion has expanded to release 52 seasons a year–a carousel of new items appearing in stores every week; items that go straight from the runway to stores. How is this speed and price possible? Because workers are exploited. Companies outsource from overseas and find business that will work for the least amount of money. These businesses are often threatened by the companies who say they will take their business else where if they do not do the work at a lower cost. Not wanting to lose money, the companies agree and because they lack sufficient funds, they cannot pay their workers well and they cannot keep the working conditions safe. This can result in a devastating loss of life, just like what we saw at the collapse of Rana Plaza which killed over 1,000 workers. If the idea of fast fashion is beginning to feel harsh to you, that’s because it is. Companies hide behind glossy magazine covers and pretty clothes, but when we look past all of that and begin to ask questions, we discover the ugly truth. This truth is what we hope to seek out, and what we hope you seek as well.
One thing we’d like to stress is that we do not blame consumers for sweatshops, unfair wages, and unbearable working conditions. Consumers aren’t the ones going to sweatshops asking that they cut down wages to generate a cheaper price tag. That’s the people at the top. But consumers do have the responsibility to shop responsibly–consumers are the voice.
We have to ask questions. We need to demand to know who is making our clothes. We must begin to value transparency. We have to give a damn. Or else nothing will change. People will stay in poverty, and people will continue to lose their lives over cheap clothes. And our consumerism should not infringe on another person’s life.
Not The New Black’s missions is to educate consumers to help them shop responsibly. Throughout the month of February we will be featuring companies that allow you to know exactly who is making your clothes.