The dark side of fast fashion, the true cost

Fast fashion: The dark side

Clothing has joined the long list of increasingly disposable commodities. This is largely due to unprecedented low prices, both in store and online, often termed ‘fast fashion’. But the question is, at what cost? Here we explore the dark side of the fast fashion industry.

It is possible to purchase an outfit for a similar price to a dinner out. This means that an extensive wardrobe is now within reach of most people in the western world.  What has been largely hidden from the consumer though, is the high price being paid elsewhere. That is, both socially and environmentally.  For many of us, the first insight into this was watching The True Cost. The True Cost is a horror series of tragedies broadcast around the world, involving loss of life due to unsafe factories in poor areas. For example, the collapse of Rana Plaza building and fire in Dhaka, both in Bangladesh.

Also exposed in the documentary, The True Cost, is a story of unimaginable hardship, akin to slavery, as well as being the world’s second biggest polluter (after oil).

Forced to work for approximately $10 per month, workers suffer as the managers compete to retain the business of big brands. In turn, succumbing to the pressure to produce even cheaper garments.  The workers have no rights and in one interview a worker describes brutal assault of those daring to request better conditions and wages.  

Farmers of the raw materials, such as cotton, have become trapped in the cycle of ‘round up ready’ cotton seed. That is, seed which is genetically modified to be resistant to round up. They then require the use of round up herbicides, which have been declared as cancer causing by the World Health Organisation. Find our more about this in our recent article why buy organic.

After our insatiable appetite for cheap clothing wreaks havoc with communities, the throw-away clothing then ends up in landfill or returned to third world countries, such as Haiti. In turn, crippling their own clothing manufacturing industry.  This system is not ethical or sustainable on any level. 

The dark side of fast fashion, the true cost
The dark side of fast fashion, the true cost

There are so many layers to this confronting exposure that it is hard to know where to start.

The clothing giants argue that their business provide jobs that would not otherwise exist, however declined to be interviewed for the film.   We, the consumers, are at the end of the supply chain, and as such, collectively have the power to change this abhorrent practice (fashion is just one area where workers in third world countries are exploited for our indulgence).   We can only imagine that if people were aware of the level of exploitation and environmental impact, most would be willing to pay a little more if it meant that those who produced the garment could have a better life.   

This is only a small snapshot of a disturbing but informative film. We highly recommended watching it, as well as considering ways in which we can be more conscious of our consumption, sourcing garments that observe free trade standards and demanding accountability from big brands.  Some tips as to how to do this can be found on The True Cost as well as The Fashion Revolution.

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