Ethics in Clothing Production

For many people, the process of buying new clothes involves going to a physical store, or going online shopping to find whatever you’re looking for. There are some people who will shop around and try to find the best deal, or an option even more suited to their needs, but even then it’s not the most involved process. One common denominator is that the most readily available clothing producers, the most popular and most accessible, are often the most unethical in their production. It’s practically unavoidable, as nearly all clothing producers rely on foreign manufacturers, but that doesn’t mean that these injustices shouldn’t be discussed. These major corporations are exploiting entire populations of people who have no choice but to work in these terrible conditions. These workers need all the money that they can get, and these businesses know that they’re vulnerable, so they take advantage of that. They’re putting their health and well-being on the line for abysmal payback. Only an estimated 2% of fashion workers around the world are paid a living wage. In fact many official organizations, including the European Parliament, have decided that the term “slave labor” is an accurate description for the treatment of fast fashion workers. We don’t like to think that slavery still exists in our world, but it does. These workers aren’t treated like people. Many report not being allowed to take bathroom breaks, despite many working 14-16 hour days. During the peak season, the hours are even longer, because they can’t refuse the overtime pay. Many will also face verbal or physical abuse if deadlines aren’t met.

Now, this is a lot of information, and it can feel disheartening knowing that this is so prevalent. The route that I’ve taken is shifting to buy pretty much all of my clothes from secondhand sources, or to make my own. But it’s not that simple for everyone. It’s a layered topic, because the reality is that most of the time, fast fashion is the only option for many people. Many sustainable clothing producers make their clothing in small batches which don’t always include plus sizes. Some people simply can’t afford to shop at more sustainable shops, or even at online secondhand shops like Poshmark or Depop. Even in known secondhand stores like Goodwill prices have increased, especially on sought after items like coats. There is no perfect solution, the important thing is to have the information so you can make the decision that’s best for you.

4 thoughts on “Ethics in Clothing Production”

  1. i never knew about the workers for fast fashion were treated this way. the abuse and low pay just makes me feel sick.

  2. Wow. That is truly terrible. I kinda had a little bit of an idea that these workers were not getting paid well at some stores, but did not know they were treated to that extent. It makes me want to change my shopping habits. It is hard to change over because of how affordable and convenient it is to shop at these places, but I will put in the effort and try.

  3. One key point that shocked me is the fact that usually, the most popular and accessible style of clothing is usually the most unethical in production. Learn new things every day!

  4. There is so much pressure from ethical influencers to “shop at this completely ethical store” where a t-shirt is almost $200. Finding alternate ways to avoid supporting these companies and businesses that are doing these cruel things, while also not spending my entire paycheck, can be difficult which is so disappointing.

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