In a recent Vogue article, the headline asked ‘Did You Know Sweatshops Exist In The UK?’ and truthfully? I had no freakin’ clue.
Sweatshops are currently present in the city of Leicester with unethical companies operating under multiple names. They pay on average £3.00 per hour for hard work in locations not suitable for entering let alone working extended hours in.
They take advantage of women who come over on 6 month work VISA’s with little knowledge of the English language and work them to the bone until their VISA runs out and they head home.
Fast fashion has long been something on my mind since I started following YouTubers such as Wear I Live and Sammi Quinn who have both discussed fast fashion previously. But it always seemed like some far away issue and I cruelly and naively dismissed it as “someone else’s” problem.
But this is happening here. Less than 150 miles away from where I live, women are being paid below minimum wage to make clothes in buildings I wouldn’t step foot in to make clothes for people like me. And it feels like something has just clicked.
As a person making full use of her overdraft, I have always understood the need to buy cheaper objects but still fit in. Fast fashion is such a safety blanket that way in that you can literally buy the cool clothes that every one is tagging on Instagram. No spite for the people that do. Heck, I do that. That striped Zara bag that is everywhere? I want it. I still do. But the idea feels tainted to me now.
It is just a bag. Fast fashion for these women is 6 months of hard work for shit pay. And that’s here in England. In Bangladesh and Cambodia, this is their entire working life. To quote the must see documentary The True Cost (available on Netflix) – its about greed and fear, power and poverty. While the documentary goes into such great detail, these four words sum up the entire process of fast fashion for me.
Greed – I want to buy an unnecessary amount of clothing.
Fear – I’m afraid that to not have it means that I’m not fitting in.
Power – I have the privilege to buy these clothes.
Poverty – Women who are poverty stricken make these clothes for me and others like me and fast fashion keeps them in poverty with poor wages, atrocious working conditions and lack of respect for their lives.
Image stills from The True Cost. Here Shamia, a Bangladeshi factory worker, speaks about the fast fashion industry as a garment worker.
It would be insincere of me to say that I will never buy anything that fast fashion made again but I am sure as hell ready to start the transition away from fast fashion pieces.
Marie Claire have recently made a list of the best places in the UK to buy eco-fashion (i.e. not fast fashion) which has so many great options that I definitely want to look in to but perhaps when I’m not trying to save money. You can also read Vogue’s advice on how to shop more mindfully here.
For now, I am going to aim for charity shops,eBay and Depop and I am going to try and limit my purchases to just one a month. I have a wardrobe overfilling with clothes and bags and shoes. I don’t need anything else and it may be the beginning of a new feature where I show off my purchases…