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The Neglected Truth
You’ve probably heard that fast fashion is bad for our society. Yet, if you are like me, you still walk into H&M to buy clothes with only a dim notion that it is “bad.”
We know the fast fashion industry aims to produce high volumes of clothing with cheap materials to take advantage of the rapid change in fashion trends; we also understand that it is “bad” for our environment and society, but that’s pretty much it. We feel guilty for being ignorant, but not enough to disregard the latest trend. But really, is this issue something that we can just ignore? You decide after reading this.
Let’s begin our journey from when you were walking down the street with your friends. Walking down the alley of stores, your friend points to one of the most famous models, Habib*, posing on the store’s front wall. Whatever she wears is the definition of trendy, and now you just have to have it. You and your friends bash into the store and go through the hundreds of piles of clothes displayed neatly on the hangers. Ha! There it is—the pink shirt you were looking for. You don't know what you will wear it with, and you're quite sure you will throw it out by the end of this year, but you just get it: it's not that deep.
Habib* is a fictional character
(One week prior)
“1 2 3, l 2 3…OK…KEEP IT UP…”
Loud shuttering, bright flashes, and whirring of equipment filled the air. H&N* hired Habib to model for their new collection.
“This is the shirt I have to wear? This is so off-trend. The quality, the color, the material is so… cheap” complained Habib.
The contract between the agency and H&N was made already: she needs to model for it either way. The staff dresses Habib and clips the clothes with pins to fit her body perfectly for the camera. They don’t care how it fits people in real life.
H&N* is a functional clothing brand
(Two weeks prior)
With strong tides and humid air, the ship sails against the wind with thousands of containers, and in those containers are clothes—one of them being that pink shirt you carelessly got. These shirts share their room with about 80,000 other clothes, each with their own stories to face.
The shirt sat in the dark container and greeted the sunrise three times now. It was packed and stacked in China into a crowded container, and now it’s on its way to you. As you may have seen the “Made in” tag on your clothes, many brands decide to manufacture their products overseas, regardless of whether the country is capable of producing their own clothes; this is because certain countries have a low cost of labor and lose regulations towards working conditions than others.
(One week prior)
Forcing herself to stay awake after the long, exhausting 10 hours of work, Aashvi* picks up the pink textile she has seen thousands of times. She flattens the cloth neatly on the table and starts the same routine she has been doing for hours. But it's okay. She was promised a wage—the minimum wage. The factory manager comes by her ear and shouts an unattainable amount of clothes to be finished by today. He tells everyone that there is no going home until the demanded amount is met. But it's okay. She will be able to feed her little children for the day with this money. What she is not aware of is that there are at least 100,000 other young girls and women just in her country who have been promised the same thing. Let's face it: they are all being exploited. They are facing debt bondage, intensified work rates, and verbal abuse, and there is nothing they can do about it. Whether Aashvi is aware of the situation or not, she still comes to the factory every day to stitch the pink textiles together for her living. It's the best she can do.
*Aashvi is a fictional character made up of research
(5 days prior)
As hundreds of machines whir here and there, the cotton arrives in an Indonesian spinning factory, where freshly picked lumps of cotton are gathered together and filtered through a picker– a process of loosening, separating, and cleaning.
(3 days prior)
160 days of waiting until James* finally picks the cotton from his farm. With technological development, the farmers use machines to harvest cotton, unlike in the olden ages when slaves were used to picking them one by one. James doesn’t know where this cotton is going to end up, but he simply exports them to pay his bills.
James* is a fictional character
(Five years later)
With trembling hands and painful coughing, Aashvi sits in front of the sewing machine like she always does. The machine is now getting old, like her, and often malfunctions to the point where her hands are full of scars. She hopes for an improvement in the environment, but it doesn't seem to get better. All she can do is pray.
This was only a glimpse of the process of how clothes are produced in fast fashion. All the time and effort for “three out of every five fashion items” to end up in a landfill. While the process of making the shirt seems simple, the process within it is not. There are many alternatives to fast fashion, such as purchasing second-hand, shopping locally, and renting clothes. Yet, our ignorance and selfishness blind us.
It seems clear that our society needs to treat this issue with a more serious lens. Don't feel guilty for buying fast fashion, but instead, learn what you are wearing. Be aware of the stories behind your clothing and make informed decisions on what and where you buy it from. It is your choice and responsibility after all.