Loveland Magazine is one of the 400 news outlets worldwide, with a combined audience of over 2 billion people “Covering Climate Now”, a global journalism initiative committed to bringing more and better coverage to the defining story of our time.
The initiative, was co-founded by The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review

Mihaela Manova is “Covering Climate Now” in Loveland, Ohio as an editor for Loveland Magazine

by Mihaela Manova

Following the introduction of sustainability (you can view the article here), a much less known part of the fashion industry remains to be discussed. Fast fashion as previously discussed is on the verge of collapse, as now celebrities and influencers are seeking alternatives to bettering the environment and spreading awareness on the issue. But what is the foundation of fast fashion? Its workers of course.

The working conditions

Firstly, we present the statistics on garment producers for fast fashion by the source, War on Want (this includes their 2011 report) :

  • Three million people in Bangladesh work for fast fashion, 85% of them are women.
  • The wage for a garment factory helper is £25 a month (or $32.72 a month)
  • 80% of workers work more than 12 hours a day, more than the legal limit for working hours
  • Three quarters of the women workers that War on Want has spoken to have been verbally and 1/2 of them physically abused at work

While researching this topic, it is important to note that there is a distinct difference from the living wage of a single person and the minimum legal wage. As stated on Sustain Your Style, the living wage consists of being able to pay for food, rent, healthcare, education, clothing, transportation, and to also have savings. In the biggest countries for large manufacturing of clothes, companies brag about paying their workers “half to a fifth of the living wage,” which constitutes the “minimum legal wage.”

 

An infographic from The Clean Clothes Campaign showcases the difference between a living and minimum wage.

In December of 2019, Sanam Yar wrote an article for The New York Times that depicted various garment workers around the world. The people behind the clothing brands, who’s work we see up on hooks at the mall, shared their stories of what they do and their equally dark experiences. 

 

‘You basically have to kill yourself in front of a sewing machine in order to provide for your family.’

The quote above is from Maria Valdinete de Silva, 46, from Brazil, who was one of the many interviewed by Yar. Details from what Mrs. da Silva has gone through entail the monotony of creating something over and over for little pay, while having to work from day to night in exchange for minimum wage.

You can read the article here.

Much like the topic of fast fashion and it using cheap labor to make more quantity than quality, Mrs. da Silva is currently working at making her own pieces, but this time at her own pace.

‘It’s not so much the salary, it’s that I am here because we’re all one family.’

On the contrary, Yar showcases Antonio Ripani, 72, who works for Tod’s Group, the massive luxury footwear brand. In Casette d’Ete, Italy, Mr. Ripani’s job is centered on leather quality control for the shoes that the brand produces. The quote above distinguishes Mr. Ripani’s feelings towards his job and the environment there, providing a positive connotation to making garments and practicing a good quality standard. In the article, Mr. Ripani mentions apprenticeship and how he is teaching the younger generation to his craft, something most fast fashion workers could never do. 

Valuing the external factors that contribute to a happier, and safer workplace, Mr. Ripani mentions that he can choose his hours and work with assistants, while also being credited for his work by the company.

The Shein Scandal 

Shein, one of the fastest growing online retailers has been under fire for more than one instance. According to Study Break, Shein “issues about 500 new items a day,” establishing and solidifying their place in the fast fashion industry. This retailer has had glowing reviews from many consumers, allowing them to shop items that are inspired by social media trends and high fashion companies at extremely low prices. As Study Break puts it, “And if it seems too good to be true, it’s because it is.” 

Recently, the company was  caught selling Islamic praying mats as decoration, while also displaying a swastika necklace for the low price of $2.50. Outrage was prompted towards the site, and an apology post later appeared on their official Instagram. 

Details about their production remain hazy to the public as the site has specified that it will not engage in work with in any underage workers producing for the company. Here is their statement:

“We strictly abide by child labor laws in each of the countries that we operate in. Neither we nor any of our partners are allowed to hire underage children. Any partners or vendors found to have violated these laws are terminated immediately and reported to the authorities.” 

With that said, Study Break notes that “The statement disregards the fact that child labor laws vary significantly from country to country. In Bangladesh, for example, where many fast fashion factories are located, their amended child labor laws allow children as young as 14 to work.” 

Since the public outrage, more consumers are backing off fast fashion and beginning to focus on sustainability, to become better contributors to the environment and to advocate for better working conditions for its workers. 

The cluttering of the environment

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2017, 11.2 million tons of textile waste has ended up in landfills. But the worst entails, as fabric can take up to 200 or more years to decompose in those same landfills.

Many companies have gone under fire for how they discard their garments after seasons. Some, like H&M, have been exposed throughout the years with altering their unsold clothing so no one can wear it after. In 2010, an H&M store in New York City was exposed with cutting holes in their discarded apparel, a factor that did not help the growing homeless population during that time. 

As we all, maybe most of us, try to recycle plastic and paper throughout the house, companies like USAgain and American Textile Recycling Service are the ones whose main goal is to recycle textiles and garments that one is too tired of.  

The Saturday Evening Post details these services as some that “You might recognize some of these “rag yards” from the donation bins they’ve peppered throughout cities in the last 10 years or so. Even nonprofit organizations like Goodwill Industries and The Salvation Army sell to such companies what they cannot use or store.”

Here are the addresses to the nearest centers in our area:

Local Charity Clothing Dropbox Locations:


After seeing this side of fast fashion, we must ask ourselves if we wish to continue the cycle until our world gains more and more unnecessary textiles. In our final piece, we will talk about some of best stores to get sustainable yet fashionable clothing that not only benefits the consumer but also their planet. Until next time…

To read part one of this series: click here.

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