• Ethical Edition

Sustainability Sunday #76

Fast fashionistas ARE NOT feminists.

Ever since Dior brought out the “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt in the Spring/Summer 2017 runway show the fast fashion world has done exactly what it’s always done, create cheap versions of the same thing.

Although an “I ❤️ NY” t-shirt has never been cool we’ve all be partial to some form of saying slashed across our front at some point and to be fair to you, there are some pretty cute slogan tees out there (this does not include an iron-on applique of your name FYI).

Now I have a real bone to pick with the high street retailers here. With this week marking the end of Fashion Revolution Week this is a particularly relevant rant (I mean, post) as approximately 80% of garment workers worldwide are women. A shocking percentage of these women work in terrible conditions, are not paid anywhere near a living wage and suffer for the sake of the ever-changing trends that hit the shops of the Western world. Recently, The Guardian looked at the changes made since the collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013 as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety signed by around 250 companies following the disaster will come to the end of their terms this year. Although workers’ safety is now more carefully regulated and factory owners are more wary of the complaints of workers, brands still continue to push on price despite factory owners spending more on maintaining safety standards. This continual push for lower prices is equally appalling as brands not knowing, or even caring about the conditions in which their products are made.

Here’s really what’s bothering me though, high street brands all have their own take on garments with feminist slogans. A show of support perhaps for the emergence of stories about pay gaps, sex crimes and general misogny. BUT to make these slogan t-shirts, women, who have barely any rights, make hundreds of pieces of clothing with statements that just do not apply to them, in many cases thanks to the brands they’re making the clothes for. What a horrifically vicious cycle. There’s some pretty bad examples, and if you’re remotely into sustainable/ethical fashion I expect you can guess who they are, but here’s my worst offenders:

ASOS, H&M, Topshop, Mango, Missguided and Zara all produced garments with some kind of feminist slogan, yet all of them have international supply chains that they cannot provide full transparency on. The feminist fast fashion trend vs fashion workers was first uncovered in 2014 (way before Dior hit the runway) when Whistles and Elle Magazine launched their ‘This is What A Feminist Looks Like’ t-shirts which were later found to be made in a Mauritian sweatshop where women earned only 62p per hour. And yet it still continues.

So what are we to do about it?

First and foremost DO NOT BUY INTO IT! You aren’t making yourself any more of a feminist by buying one of these shirts, in fact I’d argue you’re making yourself less of a feminist.

How about making your own? Going back to those iron-on appliques… You can get fabric pens, iron on patches, iron-on stickers or grab a needle and thread and sew on your own statement.

Or, if you aren’t so much of a dab hand, here’s a few tees that DO make you more of a feminist:

1. My Sister: a brand that aims to prevent sex trafficking and empowers survivors by promoting positive messages and providing after care.

2. People Tree: one of my go-tos for sustainable clothing, People Tree’s products are all ethical and sustainable, sweatshop-free and mainly organic.

3. Never Fully Dressed: A small but growing London-based brand making these statement 100% organic cotton tees.

4. Madewell: a suspicious ‘sister’ brand of J.Crew I wouldn’t go as far as saying these guys are fair to their entiiiire supply chain, but they do donate profits to Girls Inc., a charitable organisation that promotes the empowerment of young girls and women through education and advocacy.

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