By: Sarah Hudes
What if I told you that the shirt you are wearing right now was stitched together by the hands of suffering child laborers in Bangladesh? Or that your favorite clothing store produces their clothes in dangerous garment factories in Cambodia? Would you rethink where you bought your clothes?
While our morality answers yes, people still continue buying clothes produced by underpaid labor. Because of these clothes’ alluringly low price tags, most people are able to block out of their minds the cold hard facts—innocent human beings are suffering. People are inherently selfish; it is human nature to be more inclined to care about their own lives than others. Regardless, it is unacceptable to risk human lives in exchange for saving a couple dollars on an article of clothing.
Right now, the amount of goods that are imported from foreign countries is higher than ever, and developing countries’ wages as low as ever. Devastating factory fires kill hundreds of people each year due to unsafe working conditions; in 2012, over 300 people were killed in a Pakistan factory fire. According to The High Learning, Nike “employs more than 100,000 factory workers in Indonesia, paying them an average of about $3.50 per day.” But that’s not the worst case—most companies’ wages are $1 per day. While these factories give way to trendy, affordable clothing in the West, they create suffering and destruction in the East.
The truth is that the fast fashion industry is targeted at unaware teenagers who vapidly purchase clothing to meet trends that come and go. The fast fashion industry profits off of ignorance. American companies like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara are all guilty of taking advantage of workers in foreign countries. So why do we continue to support their malicious actions?
Constant advertisements for sales and low prices are tempting because they are targeting you as a customer. It is extremely important to put more thought into what you purchase as a consumer. Especially as teenagers, who are a huge part of this growing issue, we hold lots of purchasing power in the industry. Conscious shopping is easy—it just takes a little more thought. Thrift shopping is a superb way to find cheap and unique clothes, and ultimately communicates the need for a serious change in the faulty fashion industry. Doing a little of research on where you buy your clothes may take a little time, but it has the potential to stop hundreds of fatalities. As you research, you will find that sustainable corporations DO exist, and they are not hard to find. One such company is American Apparel, which designs and manufactures its clothing sweatshop-free in the United States.
So next time you carelessly buy a cheap, trendy t-shirt ask yourself: is it worth it?