So why should you care about ethical fashion?
Why should you be putting more thought into what you're buying? Why should you be asking where your garments are made and who made them? The short answer. Humans. Because there are human beings behind every single thing that you are buying. These humans are making poor wages and working in unsafe conditions. No human deserves that.
There are so many, but let's start with one of the biggest issues in fashion right now. Low wages. Garment workers are not making living wages.
What is a living wage?
A living wage is defined as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs. Needs such as food, housing and other essentials. According to Fashion Revolution only 2% of workers around the world are actually paid a livable salary. That means that 98% of workers are not being paid a living wage. 98% of humans are not making enough money to meet their basic needs.
According to Remake, in Bangladesh the minimum wage is equivalent to $94 a month in USD. The living wage is $443 a month in USD. In China the living wage is $685 USD per month, but the minimum wage is $332 USD per month. To live in Cambodia you would need $504 USD a month, but their minimum wage is only $182 USD per month. To see the full list visit Remake.
Who are these garment workers?
Who are these 98% of workers not being paid a living wage? Mostly women. According to Fair Trade Certified, 80% of garment workers are women. They are just seen as "cheap labor" to the big fashion brands, but these are mothers, daughters, sisters, women. Women being paid unlivable wages working long hours in unsafe conditions. It is not uncommon for these women to work 60+ hours a week while also experiencing gender, age, and pregnancy-based discrimination as well as physical abuse and sexual harassment from factory management. These women will never be able to free themselves from poverty, provide for their families, gain independence or obtain education for their children if the fashion industry continues this way.
Why are wages so low for garment workers?
We are overconsuming and the fast fashion industry is trying to keep up with the demand. People want disposable, affordable and trendy clothing. Fashion retailers continue to cut labor costs and increase the pace of product output. Every year Americans spend nearly $20 billion a year on clothing, that's an average of 70 pieces per person and in the US alone, the average person is sending 81 lbs. of clothing to the landfill annually. And these numbers increase each year! We are overconsuming and the workers are paying the price. With such a fast speed of production, there are consequences. Workers are being overworked, underpaid in unsafe environments so that fashion retailers can get product out cheaply and quickly while making a profit.
So what can we do?
1. Love and take care of the clothing you already have.
2. Shop secondhand.
3. Shop less, choose better quality pieces.
4. Look for quality and versatility in the new pieces you add to your closet.
5. Support ethical and fair trade brands.
What about other ways to help without shopping?
Don't stop at consumerism. It's not just about the shopping. We understand that not everyone can always shop ethically. Fast fashion is convenient and cheap and we get that. Not everyone can afford ethical fashion. Ethical fashion isn't always size inclusive. Not everyone has access to ethical and fair trade brands, but we can still all be a part of the slow fashion movement in some way.
Follow organizations that are making a difference such as Remake, Clean Clothes Campaign and Fashion Revolution. Follow them on social media, signup for their newsletters to stay informed, donate and volunteer.
You can also be a digital activist. Send emails, leave comments and DM the big fashion brands. Ask them questions. Let them know that you want to know who made your clothing! Let's be the voices for these women and support them. Let's be the change in the fashion industry. We can and we will do better!