When buying a blouse in your favorite department store, the first thing that may come to mind is the material or the color of the fabric. One important aspect of the shirt you may not think about however, is how much the person who sewed the shirt was paid to make it, or the conditions under which they work. Do they get fair breaks? Is the company against child labor? Although these may seem like extremely heavy questions to ask while enjoying some retail therapy, it can make the difference in someone’s life. The documentary The True Cost reports nearly 93 percent of fashion manufacturing is sourced outside the United States. In many of these countries, workers often are not guaranteed the basic safeties of those that are employed in the US.
A large part of the reason companies don’t pay workers fair wages is due to the phenomenon of Fast Fashion. This means that instead of the typical two seasons– Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer–the fashion calendar essentially turns over every two weeks with new trends. This leads to many cuts being taken in the cost of production, which falls on cheaper materials, and in turn, cheaper labor. Cuts in labor production wages often results in a lack of safety for workers.
One of the most detrimental examples of workers’ safety being compromised was in 2013, when a 8-story factory in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh collapsed. Managers ignored worker’s concerns about cracks in the building’s walls resulting in the death of nearly a thousand people. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many tragedies of its kind to occur in the fast-fashion industry.
Adelante Shoe Co. is an example of one of the many companies to become completely transparent in their practices. They choose each price point responsibly through the social impact model the Living Well Line. Rather than providing a low wage, the company allows their workers to define a salary amount that will allow themselves and their families to live well.
It can be difficult to know the working conditions of your favorite fashion brands but a good place to start is by researching where your clothes come from. The Fair Labor Association has a list of affiliated companies that are committed to giving their workers fair practices and humane conditions. Adidas, Patagonia, Hugo Boss, and Puma are just a few of the many brands that have made the promise to treat their workers fairly. This is just one of the few ways to begin widening your own knowledge on brands that have fair practices.
The Fashion Collective’s member, Andreana Bakert Miceli is committed to styling with brands that are rooted in ethical and sustainable practices. She recognizes that “the mass production of things is a fairly recent phenomenon that has led to poor habits in the fashion, agriculture, and transportation sectors.” Andreana wholeheartedly believes that quality rules over quantity, and stresses the importance of being knowledgeable about the practices of companies you buy from. For her, it’s all about making and keeping fashion a sustainable industry. Making a commitment to be a shopper for quality, not just of the clothes, but for the lives of the workers, is a step we can all take for the fashion industry to become more sustainable and fair for those involved.
Featured image styled by Andreana Bakert Miceli
Fashion and coffee enthusiast. When Kassidy isn’t out exploring new coffee shops and museums in NYC, she can be found writing about everything fashion related.