FAST FASHION: A FEMINIST ISSUE

I think a lot of us are guilty of shopping on fast-fashion sites, and if we aren’t, I’m sure some of our friends are.  Sites like Boohoo, Romwe, Zaful, Fashion Nova, etc, operate on business models that offer insanely cheap trendy items, and turn over new items extremely fast.  Fashion Nova has said they offer 600 to 900 new styles every week. They create as many cheap styles of clothing as they can, sell them as cheap as they can, maximizing profit by sourcing cheap labor and cheap materials.  This business model manifests in unsafe working conditions, long hours, and a low minimum wage to laborers.  The issue is, 80% of laborers are women, ages 18-24 years old, making less than $3 a day.

The rise of Fast Fashion is new.  With the rise of industrialization and the global market, more and more factories have been closing down in the states, and sourcing cheaper labor overseas.  In 1991, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 56.2% of all clothing purchased in the US was American-made; by 2012, it dropped to 2.5%.  The shift is caused by capitalism, in the pursuit to make the most money, in the least amount of time.  They depend on low-production costs, which means low wages, unsafe working environments, and long hours. One of the deadliest textile-industry accidents to date happened in Bangladesh in 2013, when the Rana Plaza collapsed. Out of the 1,129 people who died in the accident, 80% were women and some children.  Those women were working 16-hour days, making 25 cents an hour. 

“The fast fashion companies are like drug pushers: they go to these countries promising to lift millions out of poverty, they get the business, and then once they start production in that country they start pushing prices down.”

-Colin Firth, CNN

These industries place offshore manufacturing sites in countries with the promise of jobs and wealth for their country.  The reality is, they uphold poverty and disempower women, while also causing environmental destruction.  According to The United Nations, Fast Fashion is responsible for 8% of carbon emissions, and textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. Countries like Bangladesh, where many fast fashion factories are located,  people are more vulnerable to the climate crisis than the Americans who are purchasing the clothing.  In 2016 alone, extreme weather-related disasters displaced around 23.5 million people in Bangladesh.  By 2050, it is predicted that 1 in 7 people in Bangladesh will be displaced due to climate change.

GOH CHAI HIN/AFP via Getty Images)

“By thinking of the

garments we wear as short

term tools rather than

long term investments,

we contribute to wasteful

consumption patterns that

inevitably lead us towards

drastic climate change.”

-Anon

As feminists it’s important to integrate our values of social equity into our everyday lives, especially as consumers.  I feel like in the age of instagram, fast fashion is specifically promoted by young women around our age.  Influencer or not, people are buying A LOT of these products.  The issue is, as young white women of privilege are worrying about their next outfit, they’re also contributing to the oppression of other women across the world.  Systems like these hide in colorful packaging, that’s why it is so important to be aware of who is profiting off of your consumerism, and who is being hurt.  Not only are these business models taking advantage of women’s fragile position in the workforce of other countries, but they also are exploiting the earth.  Those who are at the highest risk of climate change, which happen to also be the women that slave away in those factories, will pay the price of our trendiness.  

By spending our money on Fast Fashion we are uplifting these violent industries.  It’s important as women, and as feminists, that we look into what products we are supporting, and know the true cost.  It’s important for us to focus our consumerism on uplifting women.  We can do this by shopping brands made by women for women, shopping locally, or shopping second hand.  This site has a great list of brands that support the change we are all fighting for- check it out!

4 thoughts on “FAST FASHION: A FEMINIST ISSUE

  1. As woman, I’m guilty of participating in fast fashion and giving my coin to companies that are exploiting women for below minimum wages. I think what a lot of people fail to realize about fast fashion, is the people in the factories slaving over giving us our cute sundress that we only spent five dollars on, and I’m guilty of being on of them. If I’m going on vacation or an event the first place I run to is Shein, and they are necessarily the most controversial with their sweat factories. Shein has so many options for ridiculously low prices so in consumers eyes its a bargain. But the cheaper the items are the less pay the workers will be receiving. I think influencers need to start promoting other fashion websites that don’t participate in the exploitation of women working in factories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing! I am definitely guilty of this too, and I think MANY of us are. It sucks because I feel like a lot of the women who regularly support these businesses are white women who are so blinded by their privilege that it creates a barrier for them to recognize how deeply the oppression of women, especially WOMEN OF COLOR, is intertwined in our consumerism. The same people who may be even PROMOTING feminism (or believe they are) are also part of this cycle of oppression. Its SO important for us to align our values with our actions in the world, even down to the products we support. Nobody is perfect, and its not any easy thing to do- but even being AWARE of the issues makes a difference in what you take to the check out line, even if you slip up every once in awhile.

      Like

  2. YESS! I am so glad you made this post! I really think that Fast Fashion is a big issue that not everyone is aware of! So many big brands are super environmentally wasteful and negative, as well as looking at how they treat and pay their workers! Everyone is obsessed with SHEIN now, but that is a definite fast fashion brand. Lets emphasize thrifting rather than shopping!

    Like

  3. LOVE this post! Thank you so much for sharing. Unfortunately, I am a huge fast fashion shopper as I often find myself on shein and fashionova websites browsing, adding to my cart, and I notice the price is so cheap I might as well buy the items!

    I have googled this topic and always felt guilty after every single purchase. But, this post has truly brought light to my eyes on how awful these websites are towards the environment and wasteful. Not to mention how awful they treat their workers. I am going to boycott these fast fashion sites and encourage my friends and family to stop too!!! This is not okay!!!!

    Like

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