It’s half past six on a Friday night, you’re sat on the end of your bed, all the clothes you own scattered around on the floor. Feeling deflated you think for the one hundredth time, I have nothing to wear, and eventually opt for the usual black top and jeans you wore last week, promising yourself you’ll buy some new clothes this weekend. Fast forward eighteen hours and you’re in bed feeling hungover and sorry for yourself so you open the ASOS tab and begin to scroll. During this whole scenario, which will be all too familiar to most students, one thought that will not have crossed your mind is where these clothes you were 1. Trying on the previous evening and 2. Were adding to your ASOS basket, actually came from.
If I asked you “where did you get your jacket from” the response would most likely be Topshop, Urban outfitters, ASOS, H&M, the list could go on but the point is that for most people that is where they think their jacket is from. There is a desensitisation from the reality of where our clothes are actually made and produced and the reason for this is that the truth is too horrible for most to think about. Because in reality your jacket is from a densely packed, over crowded sweatshop with extremely poor hygiene standards and brutal working conditions. The women who work in these factories – which span mainly across South East Asia – are paid as little as 80p an hour, and are forced to work long fourteen hour days with no air conditioning and temperatures reaching highs of 37 degrees Celsius. To add to this already atrocious arrangement there have been numerous cases of sexual violence as well as mass fainting’s due to heat and hunger exhaustion. These conditions are present in varying degrees to produce most of what we would call our high street fashion and why? Because it allows the CEO’s of these companies to get richer while producing relatively cheap and fast fashion for the general public. So what’s the solution? Boycott. Yes, in order to use your vote and say no to sweatshops, you must stop encouraging these practises by buying into them. Luckily there are many ethical alternatives to shopping on the high street, and here are a few of them.
The first and possibly my favourite is Depop, an app designed to buy and sell clothes. Not only is this a much cheaper option that buying from high street stores, it also encourages a reuse, recycle policy into your shopping that is not there with fast fashion. The environment is constantly struggling to keep up with the rate of human consumption and it cannot be sustained for much longer. There is also a benefit of being able to look for exactly what you want on one site and not spending hours traipsing around the shops or scrolling through websites. However if you like to set a day aside to give yourself some retail therapy and exercise, charity and vintage shops can become your new best friends. In my opinion the best part of second hand clothes shopping is the joy of knowing there is only one of the item you bought in that shop. It is entirely unique to you in that moment and there is nothing better than finding a top you love that just so happens to be in your size.
I know you might be thinking, that’s all very well but what about items of clothing that you would rather somebody hadn’t already worn, such as underwear, socks, swimming costumes? Well there are plenty websites such as Lara Intimates or By Nature, that source all their materials ethically and pay their workers decent wages. The only down side is that these tend to be slightly more expensive than fast fashion but it’s all about supply and demand and the more people who buy the cheaper it will be.
So the next time you walk into Topshop or add another pair of jeans to your ASOS basket just stop and think where the clothes came from and ask yourself, is the pain and misery of the women who made these really worth the convenience? If the answer is no then step out of the shop or close the tab and use your money as a vote to put an end to the cruelty of fast fashion once and for all.
-Laura Hannah, Sports and Welfare Editor