There are many Ethical issues in fashion and until recently, problems like these were kept very quiet. Ethical issues in fashion began when big companies started to produce more and more garments. When the demand got bigger, they needed to employ more and more people in order to keep up, more employees = more money spent = less profit. There is a huge amount of history in ethical issues in fashion dating back to the early 19th century but i am focusing on the modern day problems.
In around the 1960’s when travelling became much more widely available, big companies started to realise that they could move their production abroad and pay people a significant amount less than if it were kept in England. In England we have a the Human Rights Act by which people are protected, in many other third world countries, bills like this do not exist/are not followed and so employers were able to treat people almost as if they were slaves, employing children, forcing them to work in unsafe conditions and paying them a merger wage.
In this modern day it is amazing to see so many big companies fight back to sweatshop production and promise to create an eco-friendly, people-friendly working zone. Some of these include American Apparel, Nike, H&M and Vivienne Westwood.
“I commissioned some research on the clothing and textiles impact on the environment and its social impact and, to my horror – I mean I thought I was going to find nothing wrong – found absolutely everything wrong on pretty well every level, including ten thousand people dying a year of accidental pesticide poisoning in cotton agriculture. I just thought, ‘this is a completely untenable situation’.”
Katharine Hamnett- Ethical Fashion Debate at the Victoria and Albert Museum
In my wardrobe?
This dress from my wardrobe is from American Apparel. Where possible, I try and purchase ethically friendly clothing and if that means that I have to pay slightly more for it, then so be it. Honestly, I buy a lot of my clothes second hand and so I can get bargains that were still originally ethically made at a cut of the price. I think that is important to remember that even when we are in a slight recession in the UK, you cannot give in to sweatshop (cheaper) made clothing, you will have to think about where your clothes came from.
I am proud to know that my dress was made in the USA by someone who is being paid a fair wage and who is working in safe, comfortable conditions. It is made from 95% Cotton and 5% Elastane which is a relatively sustainable mix of fibres. So by continuing to buy clothes of this sort, I am helping support ethical, sustainable fashion.
Fig4, Fig5, Fig6.- All my own photography, wearing American Apparel
(Link below) The Journal (2009) Fashion Lessons on the Factory Floor; Shifts Provide Insight on Garment Work
Farley Gordon, J. & Hill, C (2014) Sustainable Fashion; Past, Present and Future Bloomsbury Publishing
Gwilt, A. & Rissanen, T. (2011) Shaping sustainable fashion: changing the way we make and use clothes Earthscan
(Link below) Bumpus, J. (2010) Buy Right: Ethical and Sustainable Vogue
(Link below) Smelle, E (2015) Could ethical fashion get cheaper? Elle
NOTE: All images searched through google have been referenced to http://www.google.com but have been hyperlinked to the actual image.