What are we celebrating?

It’s time we wake up. Sustainability and ethics should be default, not an advertising opportunity.

Fast fashion brands love an opportunity to advertise.

In recent years, big brands have started advertising the small steps they are taking towards achieving their sustainability goals. Usually they launch an ‘ethical’ capsule collection, pay celebrities to wear it and throw a few champagne parties. They use buzz words like “conscious” to “considered” to indicate that they are on board with conscious consumption and sustainability values.

Celebrating a “commitment” to sustainability is common place for fast fashion. But it’s misleading. How is it okay to pour millions into advertising after ticking one box, when there are glaring environmental concerns around the rest of their business? This is called ‘greenwashing’.

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“A wonderful step towards meeting one of our main goals.” - H&M

“This is a journey and it's just the beginning.” - Iconic

“Ensure products are good for people and the environment.” - Zara

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These statements sound lovely... but do they have substance?

We are quick to jump in with support and applause when companies make these pledges, but we must look further. These are multi-billion dollar corporations with shareholders who want to make unthinkable amounts of money. The founder (and majority shareholder) of Zara is the 6th richest person in the world. He is worth $62.7 billion as of 2019. The company that owns The Iconic is the Global Fashion Group. GFG also owns Namshi, which supports some of the most unethical fashion companies in the world; Forever 21, Missguided and Topshop. In the first three months of 2019, GFG generated a revenue of over $422,000,000 (AUD).

Fast fashion is big business.

When you look at these pledges to sustainability, it’s obvious that these are excuses rather than indications of progress.

“At GFG, we are deeply committed to social and environmental responsibility, and are taking steps to ensure we operate our business in an ethical way.“
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Global Fashion Group

While GFG are “taking steps” towards ethics, the rest of their business is taking giant leaps in mistreating our people and planet.

The production of fast fashion is poisoning our planet and taking advantage of vulnerable workers. Fast fashion companies are the biggest producers of synthetic clothing, which sheds microfibres into our oceans, making up 85% of human-made materials found along ocean shores. They produce addictive, trend-based fashion, which is designed to end up in landfill. They are one of the biggest employers of slave labour worldwide, and they turn a blind eye to children working in their supply chains, children who should be in school.

The state of fast fashion in 2019 is heartbreaking.

We are talking about basic human rights. We are talking about not fuelling the climate crisis. We are talking about the minimum that needs to be done so that today’s 10 year olds have a future on this planet.

It’s time we wake up. Sustainability and ethics should be default, not an advertising opportunity.

Fast fashion companies need to climb their way out of a very big hole they started digging in the 90s when they decided to exploit overseas workers to make billions back home. These companies have the power, and the money, to make drastic changes. If they were genuinely committed to workers being paid a living wage, they would make sure of it. If they were genuinely committed to the environment, they would not sell clothes designed to be worn once and then thrown away. Simple.

Let’s stop applauding fast fashion companies for creating million-dollar marketing campaigns about their tiny commitments to sustainability. Reality check: That money should be directed towards living wages and reversing the damage they are doing to the environment.

At the end of the day, the people who make our clothes receive just 0.5 - 4% of the final retail cost. When we buy a $30 pair of pants, a worker may only received 15 cents. It’s time to make some noise and stand up for the people who make our clothes. Next time you see a brand advertising on your Instagram feed, ask them: “Who made my clothes?”.

For the environment, the best thing to do is buy second-hand, mend your clothes, share your clothes and celebrate the clothes that already hang in your wardrobe; hundreds of people contributed to the clothes you already own.

If you need something new, save up and support ethical designers, they’re the ones creating a fashion industry we can be proud of.


Interested in further reading?

Want to know more about H&M not paying a living wage in 2019? Click here

Want to know about makers of Zara clothing who did not get paid in 2017? Click here

Want to see a list of ethical brands? Click here

Can H&M be ethical? Click here

Missguided investigated by the UK government: Click here