In just the past few weeks there have been two very interesting broadcasts around ‘fast fashion‘. Channel 4 Dispatches and a podcast by The Guilty Feminist have placed a spotlight on the issues surrounding today’s clothing production and consumption.
Channel 4 uncovers issues in UK factories and warehouses of brands such as Boohoo, Misguided, ASOS, New Look and River Island. The factories that were investigated were based in Leicester, literally on my own doorstep. Workers were being paid £3 an hour, less than half the national minimum wage. The workings conditions were poor, fire hazards were rife and employees worked extra long shifts. In the warehouses workers were searched and given strikes for ridiculous reasons such as clocking in one minute late, taking compassionate leave to look after a sick parent and even smiling!
“They see pounds not people.”
The two Dispatches episodes are a must watch. Seeing the conditions, the attitudes and just how poorly made the items are is definitely motivation to keep asking the question – “How was it made?“
If you do not listen to The Guilty Feminist, then I suggest you start. Alongside being hilarious, their discussions really make you think. Whether it is about a man being seen as powerful, yet a woman being seen as BOSSY. Or apologising for eating chocolate then ordering slices of cake. Or finding that when surrounded by men you speed up your speech to make sure you are not interrupted. What they discuss is real, and it the feminism where you don’t shave your armpits and hate on men, it is about equality and empowerment and generally feeling happier in who you are.
This podcast episode focuses on how consumerism has changed. We are wanting to buy more for less money. A celebrity wears something one day, we want it the next. Brands are under pressure to make clothing quickly and cheaply, resulting in unfair labour practices. As the consumer we are the only ones that can change this by not buying from businesses that exploit their workers and driving consumerism to being about buying less at a fairer, better quality.
However The Guilty Feminist made a poignant point, for instance a single mother of 3 children, how is it possible for her to purchase ethically on a budget to continually replace her ever growing children’s wardrobe? At the end of the day it is about making sensible decisions when buying clothes. Some handy tips were discussed, such as buying vintage or from charity shops, trying the 30 wears challenge (if you are not going to wear it at least 30 times, do not buy!), doing some research into your favourite brands, and not just buying a new outfit because of the pressure of wearing something never been seen before.
I am 100% positive we are all guilty of treating ourselves to a new pair of shoes, just because. Or searching high and low for a new outfit for a party, despite having a wardrobe full of great outfits, but because people may have seen it before there needs to be a new one bought. Or refusing to buy from a charity shop because not matter how many times you wash it, it still smells a little foisty. But having the media place a spotlight on these issues will hopefully keep reminding us to just think more about what we are buying. Long may this unfurling of the fashion industry continue.