For those of you who don't know, I currently am in school studying Journalism and Fashion Business. In several of my Journalism classes we have been required to interview and write articles on certain topics. Last semester I took a class called Report and Writing 1, and we were required to pick a topic, find professionals to interview, and write a 1,000-word article. The topic I chose was fast fashion.
I know that I've covered fast fashion in several posts on my blog, but for this assignment I had the chance to interview very intelligent and passionate professionals in fields relating to the environment, human rights, and fashion. The article that I wrote is something that I am incredibly proud of, and is something that took a lot of hard work! With that being said, I wanted to share my article and my supplemental audio piece (including music, trailers, and personal interviews that I conducted) with you all, not only to show my professional work, but to also teach you a little more about fast fashion.
Below, is both my article and my supplemental audio piece.
I would love to hear you thoughts on both, so please don't hesitate to comment down below!
THE HIGH PRICE OF CHEAP FASHION
BY AMANDA KAPLAN
(COPYRIGHT © AMANDA KAPLAN 2017)
Columbia College fashion student Ashley Woosley finds herself wandering into fast-fashion retailers like Zara and Topshop, admiring the designs and aesthetic of the garments being sold. But she realizes that making a purchase at any of the trendy, right-off-the-runway stores would cause her more sadness than enjoyment.
“These retailers sell trendy and in-season pieces and put out new garments every week, sometimes every day,” said Woosley. “Typically these fast-fashion pieces are of very poor quality because of the high volume demand and a strict manufacturing time schedule.”
On a typical day, fast-fashion retailers sell basic garments – like a simple white tee shirts, denim jeans and pairs of sneakers – at a price-range of $5 to $10. Some stores will carry ‘higher-end’ pieces from their ‘exclusive’ lines, tricking customers into thinking that these pieces are of better quality simply by labeling the garments at a higher price point. But there’s a catch, and these cheap clothing pieces come at a cost that isn’t visibly portrayed on a price tag, but is seen first-hand in underdeveloped and impoverished countries around the world, explained June Terpstra a Columbia College Chicago human rights professor.
The factories that the Tijuana women work in often have no windows or air conditioning, and are owned by many countries around the world including the United States. The people in these impoverished areas are exploited and taken advantage of, and often have no other means of making money. The women in these areas have a difficult time supporting their families because of the lack of jobs offered in their countries, said Terpstra as she reflects on her time spent in Tijuana visiting women in the maquiladoras who work in clothing sweatshops.
“The people [in Tijuana] who worked in [the sweatshops] lived in shacks and tents outside of the factories and worked every day in horrible conditions,” Terpstra said.
While working conditions are inexcusable in Tijuana, the largest clothing factory disasters have occurred in impoverished third world countries. In 2013, Rana Plaza the fast-fashion factory located in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed killing over 3,000 working women, men and children. This tragedy is one of the most well-known, but there are at least a dozen others that have happened around the world. The cause of these disasters stem from the lack of care and attention to detail that the factory owners and managers have on the conditions of their factories, “The True Cost” film explains.
During Terpstra’s time working and consulting with the women in Tijuana, she worked on a case with sexually abused women who were assaulted by American-owned factory executives. In addition to the work that these people put in only to get taken advantage of, they are extremely underpaid as well. While the cost of living is a lot lower in the third-world countries, the workers are not making a fair living wage to support the unhealthy and underdeveloped lifestyle they’re living. The conditions in these third-world countries are a lot different than they are in the United States, said Candice Stewart the owner of sustainable and ethical boutique Mod + Ethico, in Chicago’s West Loop.
Stewart also talks about a memorable scene in the film exposing fast-fashion, “The True Cost,” and the struggles that the workers endure on a daily basis. Making under $1 a day, the factory working families cannot afford to pay rent or have furniture, and they are forced to eat their meals on dirt floors with no furniture.
“It’s not a fair wage, they just don’t have the options or the education,” Stewart said.
According to high end retailer Eileen Fisher, “The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry.” Over 90 percent of clothing purchased from fast-fashion retailers are made with genetically modified cotton containing pesticides that are damaging to not only our bodies – absorbed into our skin and our bloodstreams – but also the planet, “The True Cost” film explains.
“The [pesticides] get into our water systems and suck oxygen out of the water. When things decompose it depletes our water sources of oxygen and you see these dead zones,” said Kimberly Koverman a climate change professor at Columbia College Chicago. “The Gulf of Mexico is one giant dead zone where we’ve undone hundreds of million years of evolution.”
Along with the chemicals polluting the water because of the lack of organically grown cotton, the ‘for a day’ pieces that fast-fashion retailers sell are meant to be disposed of after only a few wears. Each year, over 11 million pounds of clothing are thrown out causing our landfills to build up dramatically and leaving our planet full of trash, Woosley explains.
As the water and land on earth become toxic, so does the atmosphere. Around 97 percent of clothing consumers purchase are made overseas and have to be shipped to America, said Woosley, the gas used by boats and planes cause a dramatic spike in carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that warms up our planet and causes global warming. The effects of global warming are catastrophic, and the earth is already experiencing these irreversible changes, said Koverman. In the arctic, glaciers and sea ice are melting at high rates causing water loss and many species to be close to extinction.
The planet is suffering, and the world’s citizens are the ones who can start positively impacting the planet. Refusing to shop at fast-fashion retailers, buying locally grown and artisan-made goods, and being away of how your garments are made are easy and reflective strides that will make a difference, Koverman informs.
“Being conscious of what you’re doing with your [clothing] and not trying to buy so much can really go a long way if enough of us are doing it,” Koverman said.