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After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, even less informed people found out about the inhumane conditions under which workers in the fashion industry have to produce clothing for fast fashion brands. In reaction to the building collapse, which killed more than 1000 people, many politicians and NGOs spoke out against the way garment factory workers are treated. Even consumers started to voice their concerns. Unfortunately, the vast majority of clothes sold in Western countries is still produced by brands that want to maximize profits at all costs. Social and environmental sustainability only play a role when they can be used as marketing strategies.
However, let's not forget that in a capitalist system we vote with our money every day.
As consumers, we can choose to buy items manufactured in Western countries, as the laws in those countries guarantee certain rights to employees. This means spending more money, but if we spend less money at the expense of a fellow human being we have to accept responsibility for events such as the Rana Plaza building collapse. As a vegan, I cannot support the rights of non-human animals but completely ignore human rights.
Minimalism ties into this nicely as owning less gives you the option to really research the brands you are interested in. If I decide to own only six dresses I can make sure that those six dresses have not been produced under inhumane and environmentally questionable circumstances. Of course, I will not be able to purchase a new piece of clothing every week, but what I do own will actually be worn on a regular basis and the people creating what I wear will have been treated with respect. I will also not throw out items after having worn them only three times because the quality is so poor.
Once the industry realizes that consumers want sustainable fashion this can set a trend for the treatment of workers and the environment worldwide.
Ethical Fashion should last longer than what we are used to these days. If you can only wear your dress one summer (because the fashion changes, or because the quality is sub-par) it means you create waste and then run and buy a new dress next summer. It's a vicious cycle, and it's no wonder that the fashion industry is one of the most damaging industries to the environment.
Of course, it goes much deeper than that. The suicide rates of farmers have risen because they cannot afford the crops the big factories need for their textile production. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the impact their fashion choices have on the environment and individual people's lives, much less on their own lives. Our skin is our largest organ, and yet, we wear items all day which were treated with toxic chemicals.
It is certainly better for us, for the environment, and for our fellow human beings, to spend more money on fewer items and to use our money to create a change.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.