Jezebel ran a story today on factory fires in Bangladesh, the country where most of our "fast fashion" is made. Bangladesh has a bustling garment manufacturing industry, and it's no wonder--they boast some of the lowest wages for garment workers in the world: approximately $43 per month. In the last five years, nearly 500 garment workers have died in fires caused by faulty wiring, overcrowding, and lack of established safety guidelines. One of the worst single incidents occurred in 2010 at a factory that manufactures clothing for brands like H&M, JC Penney, Gap, and Tommy Hilfiger. If this doesn't remind you of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York in 1911, it should. Especially after you read this chilling detail:
Electrical wiring overloaded by sewing equipment is believed to have sparked the flames in the high-rise building. Dozens of workers, breaking for lunch at a make-shift canteen on the roof, were unable to descend smoke-filled stairwells and were trapped far out of reach of ladder trucks. The building, like most factories in Bangladesh, lacked fire escapes, sprinklers, and other modern safety equipment. As the flames intensified — fueled by piles of clothes and fabric — workers trying to flee said they found at least one of the factory's gates padlocked. Several were forced to fashion ropes from rolls of fabric to attempt to scale down the side of the building. (via ABC News)
Twenty nine people lost their lives that day so we could have those fucking boyfriend jeans for $34.99. If you're not disgusted, you're definitely not paying attention.
Now, here's when I fully admit that despite my lofty, self-important rhetoric, I'm not immune to the lure of FLORAL PANTS FOR $14.99 when I walk into my local H&M. I'd love to say that I'm pledging from here on out to swear off of these stores forever. That I'm going to get my fast fashion fix by hitting up my favorite thrift stores instead. That I'm going to invest in quality pieces instead of always going for instant gratification. I could say all of this, but then I'd probably be lying. I'm a fashion junkie and I don't make a million dollars. H&M and Zara present people like me with a means for indulging ourselves and having 9 pairs of pants to choose from instead of just 3. I don't know if I'm able to separate with that kind of variety...at least not cold turkey.
So, as a kind of half-assed alternative, I will pledge to curtail my shopping at these establishments as much as humanly possible. Let's see what I can do with what I've got, and if I need more, I should be saving up for an investment piece anyway. Or combing the local Goodwill for other people's castoffs. Because thanks to fast fashion chains where there's something new that you 'must have' every week, people are getting rid of some good shit.
Now that I've just gone on this diatribe (gee, if you're even still reading I'm obsessed with you), what are your thoughts about fast-fashion? And better yet, where else can we shop for clothing that didn't cost lives to make?! Seriously, I'm asking. I'd love some tips.