With fast-fashion facing a backlash in recent years, more and more people are turning to sustainable fashion. Hannah Ryan Murphy explains why you too should be backing this ethical trend.
There are many reasons why the fashion industry as it exists today has a terrible impact on our society and environment. The fashion industry is a major contributor to environmental damage. With 225,000 tonnes of textile waste being disposed of every year in Ireland alone, clothes in landfills can take hundreds of years to fully decompose. The making of clothes is incredibly harmful to the environment. It takes 2,700 gallons of water to make just one cotton t-shirt, greatly affecting local water supplies. The chemicals used in the making of the product itself cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem surrounding the factories in which they’re made, and aren’t good for humans either. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The realities of the horrific conditions in the factories where fast fashion is produced are well documented, but it seems as though we’ve become so desensitized that we turn a blind eye.
Inhaling toxic chemicals, extremely low pay, excessive hours, dangerous working environments, and physical and verbal abuse are just some of the things that workers in garment factories endure on a daily basis. These workers are usually poor, sometimes children, and often in countries where employment rights aren’t very well-developed or enforced. The Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 gave us a harrowing insight into what exactly goes on in these factories. 1,134 garment workers for brands such as Gucci and Penneys were killed after the factory they were working in collapsed due to the negligence of the building owners. Although the world was horrified, nothing has changed. Earlier this summer news broke that a Boohoo factory paid workers as little as £3.50 an hour, and that was much closer to home, in Leicester, England. Atrocious working conditions and the companies that create them should no longer be tolerated.
There are plenty of personal advantages to shopping sustainably. You can feel comfortable and shop guilt-free knowing your purchases are not contributing to someone else’s pain. If you are buying from a charity shop your money goes directly to helping a cause. If you’re shopping with an Irish business you’re helping to stimulate the Irish economy. Instead of giving your money to a massive, unethical corporation, you’re helping a small business owner to achieve their dream. Slow fashion means that more time and effort is put into the making of the product. You also usually end up with better quality clothes and more unique looks.
Why buy a skirt from Missguided that everyone else owns when you can buy a one-of-a-kind outfit from a vintage shop instead? Shopping sustainably is the best way forward, for the environment, for the workers, and for ourselves, so next time you want to buy something new, go for the ethical option. Spending money on the fast fashion industry is so harmful. We owe it to the environment and to the garment workers to shop sustainably.