There has been a major push for ethical fashion in recent years. Consumers have been encouraged to purchase only ethically made clothing, from thrift shops or, for those who have more, ‘ethical fashion labels’.
This isn’t always as straightforward as we think
Fast fashion can be defined as clothing that is affordable and produced quickly by mass-market retailers to respond to the latest trends.
This is not sustainable. Brands such as Missguided and Forever 21 Zaful, Fashion Nova and Boohoo are what are called ‘Fast Fashion Brands. They make very cheap clothing in factories where workers’ rights can be abused at a rapid pace, which can lead to many environmental concerns, including extreme greenhouse gas emissions, soil pollution, excessive clothing that was made but got thrown away due to changing trends, rapid consumption non-renewable material, and more.
Bick, R. Halsey and Ekenga published a study. Bick, R., Halsey, E. & Ekenga, C.C., published a study that outlines the very negative effects fast fashion has on the environment and human health. They are now ashamed of others for buying from fast fashion brands like those I listed above, especially online.
This is the problem, because shame-mongering consumers into buying clothes from the cheapest place is counterproductive. When did big corporations’ ethical mistakes become consumers’ responsibility?
What alternatives are there to fast fashion? How can one shop ethically and sustainably more? You have two options: either buy from reputable, ethical and sustainable brands, or you can buy your clothes second-hand from thrift shops or online platforms like Poshmark.
If you have the cash or the time to browse second-hand shops, this is fine. But what if you don’t have either?
People with less means are often not able to afford either one of these. They don’t have the money or time to buy expensive clothes as they work minimum wage jobs. They are too busy working full-time to spend the time it takes to shop thrift stores.
Shaming people who buy fast fashion is a form of shame. You can afford to shop from more ethical brands than the people you’re shaming.
This is completely unproductive. It is not going to stop you from shaming someone for shopping fast fashion, because it is not sustainable. They can’t afford to shop elsewhere.
It is unacceptable to shame the consumer. We must hold big fast fashion companies responsible. Their business is not sustainable and they must be held accountable.
Next time you feel like you have to shame someone for buying fast fashion, or if you see someone else doing it, stop and take a look at the situation. What good does shaming someone do?
It is easy to blame others for making bad decisions and then sit back on your high horse believing you made a difference. It’s much harder to address the problem directly by confronting brands.