An Open letter
By Aniqah Chen
To the Unethical Brands of Fast Fashion,
Every day, we learn more about your business and how it’s damaging our world and impoverishing lives. By shopping your clothes, we inevitably contribute to that destruction.
Although it is not us, the consumers, who make the decision to pay workers below a living wage. It is not us, the consumers, who continuously drive down wages for profit, underpaying workers in foreign countries where weaker laws cannot protect them. It is not us, the consumers, taking advantage of social inequality to undervalue experts in the garment industry with prejudice so you can justify their low pay. Your Western empire of fast fashion greatness has been built on the backs of the vulnerable in the Global South through exploitation and abuse. It certainly makes us wonder if colonialism ever really ended, or if it has just transformed only to be concealed within the fashion industry.
You distract from this with your stylish, remarkably cheap clothing that can be hard to resist. But while you’ve unquestionably made clothing more accessible to all, you’ve deceived us of its true costs as we come to realise that low price tags are the result of that ‘expense’ being paid by someone else in a sweatshop factory, sometimes with their lives. When the cost of lives is immeasurable, are your clothes really so affordable after all?
Some of you have even started environmental campaigns, maybe realising that it’s a trend finally deemed profitable enough. But what you are doing, really, is taking advantage of the moral spirit that exists in many of us to help save our planet as you ultimately do nothing significant about it yourself.
We see your newly released ‘eco-conscious’ lines. As if it is our job to shop for a better world. We use the drop off bins in your stores. As if the bags of old clothes we bring to be recycled aren’t the result of a culture of over consumption you created and thrive off of.
Your green-washed shows of concern do nothing more but distract from you who is most responsible, all of you who make the decision to dump toxic dyes into oceans or make clothes that fall apart for the sake of ‘quick fashion’ that will ultimately last forever as polyester breaks down into microplastics that will never biodegrade.
Your virtue signalling has deceived the world. You are problematic not just for your lack of transparency hiding the corrupt ways in which you operate, but for the responsibility you have placed on us, the individual consumer to undo the years of environmental destruction and neglect you have largely caused to begin with. Greta Thunberg was quite right. How dare you?
The capitalist ways of enterprise have allowed your greed to become insatiable and the social and financial power you abuse has gone unchallenged for many years. We do not want to support the harm you cause others or the waste you lay on our planet but are left with limited options because not all of us can afford the higher prices of brands outside of fast fashion. So maybe it’s time we stopped expecting consumers to save the world when it’s unethical corporations such as yours that are not only unsustainable for our environment and society, but are immoral above all. Maybe instead we will start to look at you, in all your unethicality, to be the ones responsible and accountable for all the problems you created in the first place.