It’s not always easy to see what’s wrong with the fashion industry during the excitement of holiday season. Sometimes the decorated stores, commercial jingles and online shopping sales make us forget to ask questions and to be conscious consumers. So here’s a brief look behind the curtain of the conventional fashion industry.
For years, the fashion industry has been driven by high sales and profit margins. It appears that the more money companies and brands make, the less is allocated to workers, materials, manufacturing facilities and sustainability. What’s more shocking is that some of these companies and brands are selling clothes and accessories at lower and lower prices while still making higher and higher profit margins. Looking at the numbers, it is clear that something is not adding up.
Factories & Workers
Many brands and companies don’t invest enough time and money into their factories. As a result, they’re ridden with issues of exploitative labor, poor working conditions and more. In the 90’s, issues of child labor and sweatshops were highly publicized in the media and supposedly resolved. Although we would like to think that was the end of that, it’s still a huge issue today. Fast fashion has escalated the deterioration of working conditions and disregarded the rights of workers. Deteriorating working conditions like cramped, unhygienic and poorly maintained factories put workers’ health and lives at risk. As prices decrease in stores, less and less money is going to the people who make the clothes and accessories we wear. Low wages and poor standards for worker’s rights exploit the people who depend on these factory jobs to make a living.
The impact of fashion factories on the environment is also difficult ignore. Many conventional fashion companies don’t address the environmental damage that they create by manufacturing clothes. Hazardous chemicals are released into the environment in the process of cotton production, textiles softening and dying. Cotton is very commonly used in fabrics across the world but it uses insecticides and pesticides that harm the environment as well as the farmers who grow it. Some examples of the hazardous chemicals that are commonly used in the textile industry are nickel, lead, chromium, phthalates and formaldehyde. Unfortunately, the damage on the environment is greater in countries where textiles are made. Therefore, if you live in a first world country like the United States, it’s easy to be unaware of this issue.
A very forgotten issue of the fashion industry is the incredible amount of waste that it creates. Textile waste happens as a result of the nature of fast fashion. With every new season, there are new clothes that come into style while others go out of style. Whether they end up in landfills or the incinerator, there are more and more clothes being thrown away every year. Textile and material waste are also a byproduct of the manufacturing process. Waste is an issue that is not only effecting the environment but also the humans who live in the remnants of landfills of clothes.
The fashion industry uses materials made from animals in the form of leather, fur, adhesives and more. As the demand for these animal product materials increased, companies began to farm animals to supply these materials. There are many issues with the farming of animals for fashion from poor animal treatment to using animal products for clothes in the first place. Similar to the effects of conventional agriculture, it’s an issue that also has adverse effect on the environment and as well as humans.
This is just brief look at the issues in the conventional fashion industry. I encourage you to look more into each of these issues and discover more. I’d love to hear if you know about other issues in the fashion industry that I didn’t mention. Please feel free to leave comments and we can all learn together.
Til’ next time.