The title of this blog should not be confused with the hipster brand that is closing down or with becoming Canadian.
Rather, what clothes are Americans wearing and where are they from?
Depending on your income, you may shop at J. Crew, The Loft, Ann Taylor or others. Americans have been socialized to see what’s in front of us at the mall and to buy items based on size, color and sometimes brand.
What we don’t think about is who makes it possible for that cute top from Old Navy to have 30 of the same size in multiple colors.
The ones responsible for our aesthetic is a small child from Bangladesh. Or China. Or Taiwan. Small children, working in especially dangerous conditions, labor for hours making wages that Americans could never survive on in what is called a sweatshop. Documentaries, such as “The True Cost,” featured on Netflix, bring light to the fashion industry and what fast fashion entails. After learning how dangerous these conditions are, it is easy to say “Get rid of sweatshops!” but that may be more dangerous than the sweatshop itself.
With globalization increasing, trade and industrialization are an integral component to the world’s economy. China is known for their textile exports, yet in 2012 the industry accounted for only 3 percent of employment in that country. Exports have slowed and people are losing their jobs. Not only does this affect those below the poverty line who can’t afford to receive education and work a higher paying job, that also affects the economy.
The goal for the fashion industry should be to make textile production environmentally friendly, as well as safe and fair to the laborers. Movements such as The Fashion Revolution investigate conditions and work toward bringing awareness to the harsh conditions workers face producing clothes and pushes toward a fashion industry that is sustainable and transparent using #WhoMadeMyClothes as their tagline for urging companies to reveal how their clothing is made.
Next time you’re faced between the top at Forever 21 or H&M, consider the lives of the individuals who created your clothes. While it may be a bit more expensive to shop brands that participate in fair trade and sweatshop-free production, it might just encourage other companies to make a step in the right direction and provide workers with decent compensation and safer working conditions.
By Kayra Clouden