Are Ethics in Fashion?
by SIDNEY TRIGGS '20
A perfect lazy day can be going to the mall and enjoying the sales that appear in each store. This, however, can be a dangerous journey because of two factors.
The first is that they cause consumers to buy more than they need, because the prices seemingly make it a deal to get items they never would have bought in the first place. According to the World Resources Institute website, one full garbage truck of clothes are burned every second. This is enough to fill 1.5 Empire State Buildings every day. Not only are we wasting the clothing that we have, but the resources to even create it are vast. It takes 2,700 liters of water to create one cotton shirt. This equates to enough for one person to drink water regularly every day for 2 and a half years.
The second is that consumers do not always know exactly what they are buying, such as the source of manufacturing, the message the clothing may be conveying, and the conditions that the item was made in.
More recently, this has become more of a problem with popular brands such as Forever21 and high-end brands such as Gucci, Prada, and Burberry. For example, Gucci has released items such as turbans out of a way to “create fashion” but not out of cultural appreciation. Additionally, Burberry released a hoodie with the appearance of a noose around the neckline, and a sweater with a black-face appearance. These clothing items are not only offensive to consumers but also play into the realm of cultural appropriation.
This type of apparel calls into question whether companies are truly being mindful when releasing these ideas that they expect the general population to wear. On the other hand, are consumers giving incentive to companies by purchasing such controversial clothing articles? Standing up to these high-end brands will help the cultural appropriation become less common.
Within another facet of business ethics in the fashion industry, companies make their money off of exploiting impoverished countries and their workers. Often this business technique is called fast fashion. This includes cheap options such as Forever21, missguided, and romwe. Laborers work in harsh conditions and are paid minimally to the point where they probably could not even afford the products that they are making. Not only are they robbed of the benefits from their efforts (health care, insurances, worker’s comp), but they continue to face horrible hours and dangerous work spaces. Despite this knowledge, Forever21 has grown immensely over the last few years and their cheap prices make it easy for those on a regular shopping day to expel their money on inequity.
So, next time you think about going to spend your paycheck, think about the labor and messages your money is supporting. What does your clothing represent, and where did it come from? Our money and our actions can make an enormous impact on the environment, the economy and what we stand for. Be aware of the source, and spend wisely.