The conventional clothing industry is huge at over one trillion in sales annually. To keep this engine running smoothly, the clothing industry has developed the concept of fast fashion. The clothing industry works hard through advertising to ingrain in our minds, the idea that we must upgrade our wardrobe regularly with the latest style and/or seasonal changes. We must do these things or be viewed as behind the times, old fashioned, out of sync, unattractive, etc.
And the clothing companies have made it real easy for us to throw out the “old” and bring in the newest clothing trend by offering up cheap fashion. Heck, when that flashy shirt is only $5 bucks and that complimentary pair of pants is only $10 bucks, why not, right?
But what we don’t realize is that the true cost of these cheap fashions have simply been externalized. What do I mean by that? In order to produce cheap clothing to keep this whole consumerism tread mill going, the clothing industry must find inexpensive manufacturing options.
They do this by outsourcing their production to countries where labor is cheap, labor laws are lacking or non-existent and environmental regulations are minimal. So, let’s say Big Clothing Corporation A goes to a third world country to find a clothing manufacturer. They shop around to find the best price and decide on local manufacturer B. They generally don’t ask questions as they don’t want to know exactly how the manufacturer can possibly produce the clothing order for such a cheap price. Knowing equals guilt right?
Third world manufacturer B can make the clothing so cheaply because they use child labor, pay workers wages that are barely at subsistence level, offer no health care, child care, insurance benefits and have no costs associated with proper disposal of hazardous chemicals such as dyes, formaldehyde, fire retardants, etc or textile waste because they just dump it all untreated into the nearest river or stream.
This is what I mean by externalizing the cost. Big Corporation A now gets their nice new, shiny shirt for $2 which they then turn around and sell to you for $5. But as you hold up the shirt that little voice in your mind asks – how the heck can they sell this for just $5 bucks? They can because the local lakes, rivers and streams and the local work force where that shirt was made took the brunt of the cost. In other words, the cost was externalized.
Do you want to be a part of this tragedy? Because you have read this far, I don’t think you do. So what can we do to effect change? Thankfully, we can do a lot. The fact is that over 70% of our economy is driven by you, by me, your next door neighbor. That’s right, consumerism drives almost three quarters of our economic activity. It is the bread and butter of big corporations.
If you say NO to fast fashion and yes to organic, fair trade clothing, you are making a difference. As more people stand up and say the same thing, your combined voices will force big corporations to change. They will simply have to change or become obsolete. You hold all the cards.
So, what’s your choice? Do you choose organic clothing which is made without the use of harsh chemicals such as pesticides that pollute our environment making our drinking water unsafe, destroying habitat and killing innocent farmers by the thousands? Will you say yes to fair trade clothing which protects workers rights, allowing them to rise out of poverty and become productive and proud members of our global society?
Or do you choose to stay on the consumerism treadmill and keep buying cheap, fast fashion while ignoring the consequences of that decision?