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Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is a term that the fashion industry uses to refer to the cheap manufacturing of runway styles in a quick manner and it has established dominance in today’s consumer market. Top brands like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 utilize this production technique to hook customers on seasonal goods through low-cost labor that often puts employees at risk. Several controversies in the past have led to disasters, taking the lives of thousands and putting into question the ethics of mass production. In the wake of such calamity, slow fashion has risen up as a movement against the large companies. Through the promotion of improved safety measures and higher quality groups, small businesses are attempting to counteract the damage done.

Fast Fashion Disasters

Past grievances physically showcase the drawbacks of the Fast Fashion industry. The work conditions often put employees in dangerous situations which results in severe consequences. The Rana Plaza Factory collapse goes down in history as an example of this for the fashion industry. The factory, located in Dhaka, Bangladesh, manufactured clothing for European and American companies. On April 24, 2013, the building collapsed in on itself and killed 142 employees in the destruction. The disaster was a wakeup call for most, as the building itself violated several safety codes and builders constructed the upper four floors without a permit. The event called into question the ethics and legality of mass production factories. Specifically, the fashion industry entered the debate because not only do companies put lives at risk, but the monetary compensation is notoriously low.

Low Wage Workers

Another significant aspect of this problem is the location of the factories. Companies often take advantage of underprivileged and impoverished nations in order to reduce costs. The wages that citizens of these countries receive often do not measure up to the amount they work. One prime example is with the brand H&M, which has faced recent backlash for failing to provide fair living wages to its workers in various countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Turkey and Bulgaria. While H&M responded by arguing that there is no global standard for a living wage, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) found that workers in Cambodia earn approximately half of those in Turkey. It is therefore evident that the company has been taking advantage of the low quality of life in Cambodia and exploiting the poverty of the nation.

The Slow Fashion Movement

The slow fashion movement has surfaced in recent years as a response to the controversy surrounding fast fashion brands. Members of this crusade work to fight against current practices by producing higher quality goods in safer working conditions and for better pay. These businesses also receive help from organizations like the Good Business Lab, a start-up that focuses on finding a compromise between company goals and employee treatment. At the moment, the nonprofit is located in India and has a sister branch in the United States in order the spread the aid.

The Need for Consumer Awareness

With materials and business practices put under a lens, others have forced the fast fashion industry to refocus itself. The fashion industry is reframing products and their value in the eyes of the public. Additionally, it is finally addressing the imbalance between labor wages and work conditions for the employees. Ultimately, as consumers become more aware of the malpractice occurring behind closed glass store doors, these companies will have to reevaluate their practices and make some drastic changes.

Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Forever 21 gives back to those in need, having carried products over the years in aid of a number of organizations. Purchases from the popular retailer have contributed to the donation of $11.5 million worth of merchandise throughout 2016 to global charities such as Soles4Souls, On Your Feet and the Feed Project.

Soles4Souls is a nonprofit that collects and distributes shoes and clothing to disadvantaged communities in 127 countries around the world and throughout the U.S. As a part of its partnership with Forever 21, Soles4Souls has donated more than 800,000 units of clothing. Initially founded as a disaster relief organization, Soles4Souls provided footwear to those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In many developing nations where walking is the primary mode of transportation, millions of people lack proper footwear to get around, and as a result, are exposed to unsanitary conditions that can lead to disease. These conditions contribute to the ongoing cycle of poverty, and the vision of Soles4Souls is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and its efforts to provide a new pair of shoes to each child in need help work toward that goal.

Forever 21 gives back through its collaboration with the On Your Feet Family Resource Center, which provides assistance to low-income or homeless families and individuals, shelters, missions, board and care facilities and other organizations. Forever 21 has provided nearly 700,000 units worth of clothing donations, which have reached victims of natural disasters in Nepal, Chile, Bohol and Haiti.

FEED was founded by Lauren Bush in 2007 and has transformed into a movement fighting against hunger in a tangible way. FEED creates handcrafted products, such as bags, pouches and bracelets, using eco-friendly materials and fair labor. Giving these products raises aid that is ultimately delivered in the form of school meals, micronutrients, mother-child nutrition, Vitamin A and emergency relief. Together, Forever 21 and FEED have provided more than 71,000 meals.

While designing and keeping up with the latest trends for consumers, it is also evident that Forever 21 gives back to vulnerable communities. By establishing alliances with such charitable organizations, great numbers of people in underprivileged areas have received the assistance needed to ease their poverty and hunger and move toward prosperity.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr