Let’s get real about fashion for a minute: We all know that there is more than meets the eye to that $5 dress you saw hanging on the rack during your last shopping trip. And the story behind the stitches that hold it together is more than likely not one that is going to leave you feeling particularly good about your love of on-trend clothes.
We also all know that it is high time for fast fashion brands to dedicate themselves to social responsibility; to creating pieces that are chic, affordable and — wait for it — ethical.
The good news is that many brands (Common Assembly included!) are doing exactly that. But what exactly does socially responsible fashion look like? Here, we break down what you need to know about the social impact of fast fashion and how making socially conscious fashion choices means you can look good and feel good. (Talk about a win-win!)
What’s the Problem with Fast Fashion?
That $10 top and $15 dress stocking the shelves at your go-to store often come at a tragic social and environmental price. Garment workers in developing countries are paid very little and must work in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor study discovered forced and child labor in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam. Even ‘Made in America’ items don’t guarantee fair working conditions and some US garment workers can earn as little as $4 an hour. Ugh.
For many fast fashion producers, cutting corners unfortunately doesn’t stop at wages. Instead, the drive to increase the bottom line can cause workers to be exposed to seriously unsafe working conditions. A recent study found that many garment workers in Southeast Asia experience a host of health problems (including respiratory diseases and vision impairment) as a result of being continually exposed to the dust and grime of poorly cleaned and poorly ventilated factories. And, as Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 tragically demonstrated, these conditions can sometimes turn deadly.
But before you feel totally hopeless, the needle is beginning to move away from these depressing statistics and towards a more positive direction. In the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse, for example, Racked reported that nearly 100,000 unsafe factories were closed in Bangladesh and many major retailers have committed to being more transparent about how they produce the clothing stocking their shelves. Talk about positive momentum.
The Solution? Fast Fashion Alternatives.
So if you’re concerned about who made your favorite blouse (and let’s be real, you should be), be sure to shop from brands that are transparent about their sourcing and labor practices and contract only with factories that pay their garment workers a fair wage and provide a safe and healthy working environments like we do here at Common Assembly.
When you choose socially conscious fashion, you are helping to change the fashion industry and improve the lives of those who work in it. The more you demand that the brands you shop from meet social standards like living wages and healthcare, the better you’ll feel about investing in the season’s biggest new trends.
Affordable Ethical Clothing
So far, the push from shoppers like you for the fashion industry to do better is working. And as a result, fast-fashion alternatives are (finally!) becoming more accessible than ever before.
But what does affordable, ethical clothing look like? At Common Assembly, it means embracing trend-forward design while guaranteeing our manufacturers do not employ children or practice forced labor and that workers are paid fairly for their work. Ensuring that you are actively making the world a better place when you choose to pick up the season’s latest trends from an ethical clothing brand.
In addition to providing fashion at an accessible price point that doesn't exploit garment workers, we’ve taken our commitment to social responsibility one step further. For us, ethical fashion also means treating you with kindness and honesty (a sadly revolutionary concept). So we’ll never retouch the women in our photos, and will never encourage you to tie your worth to that new dress you’re eyeing. Instead, we’re doing the responsible thing, and celebrating you for being you.
We’re doing our part to inject kindness into the world through fashion by allowing you to feel your best (and stay on trend!) without feeding into the fast fashion cycle...or breaking the bank. It’s never been easier to stay chic responsibly.