The Almost Righteous Fight against Fast Fashion
The fight against Fast Fashion is a growing topic in our generation, especially over social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. For those who don’t know, fast fashion is essentially when companies churn out thousands of cheap, trendy clothing, often involving the utilization of unethical labor. Shein is the most notable culprit of fast fashion with their clothes coming from sweatshops overseas, but many other brands, like Zara, H&M, and Urban Outfitters, also take part in unethical practices. It makes sense that people would condemn helping fund these unethical practices, but we must remember that there are multiple factors that go into the way people live their lives, including where they buy their clothes. The war on fast fashion has become a popular one, and now that it is in the light, we need to look at the faults of the movement.
Social media has facilitated the great spread of knowledge and has absolutely helped the cause of fighting unethical brands, but with the spread of activism comes performative activists just like with any other venture. As I mentioned, just about everyone knows about the ethical faults of Shein which leads to uninformed “activists” targeting people exclusively for shopping at Shein and no other unethical brands. The method that is taken is often quite harsh instead of going the more effective route of education, but that route can’t be taken since they themselves are under-informed. It doesn’t matter though, because the goal for those few is not to help exploited workers but to engage in a performance, making sure other activists notice them.
That critique could be applied to just about any social movement, but a specific fault in the fight against fast fashion is the underlying classism it pushes. We seem to forget that ethical clothing brands, while morally less dirty, are also much more expensive. If you can afford to buy from ethical clothing brands, great! But being able to afford such a variety of clothing options is a serious privilege. For many people, the matter of food, bills, and other necessities come before anything else. It is not uncommon that performative activists “fighting” against fast fashion target people who wear cheaper clothing brands without taking into account their socioeconomic standing, including well-meaning activists.
I want to clarify this is not an encouragement to shop from brands that use grossly underpaid, and often child labor. It’s impossible to be 100% ethical in a capitalist society,yet many activists forget this. If you can buy your clothes from ethically sourced brands, that is fantastic, but if at the end of the day, your budget for necessities has emptied your pockets and you can only afford low priced clothing, that’s ok too. Thrifting is also an option, though its rise in popularity has resulted in prices rising, but that’s a topic for another day. At the end of the day, all we can do is educate you about your options. If you have the means to buy ethically sourced materials, I hope you choose to do so. If you don’t, you are not single handedly at fault for the horrific conditions of sweatshops but do let those around you know what they are supporting with their dollar and maybe, if able, they’ll be more inclined to use it somewhere else.