The High Street fashion industry has never been bigger with an estimated UK household consuming £59 billion on clothing and footwear. But with working conditions and the exploitation of workers at an all-time low, should fashion come at the cost of others?
According to Fashion United, people are spending more on the high-street than ever before. On the Sunday before Christmas, 11 million people were expected to visit London’s Oxford Street to spend £1 billion at the rate of £1.5 million-a-minute, according to a report by the website Kelkoo.
The key players on the high-street including Topshop, H&M, Primark and Next often have fashion available at very low prices – fabrics that include denim, leather and cotton. For the consumer, these cheap prices are hard to resist and considered disposable.
Woody Higgins, 18, said: “When I was younger, I used to wear a lot of Fairtrade and ethically sourced clothing but now that I’m older I wear stuff from the high-street just because it’s cheap.”
Big companies on the high-street depend on globalization, the process of the world becoming connected through increased trade and production.
Globalization allows the production and labour of garments to be purchased in different countries across the world for a cheap price. These foreign factories can produce mass amounts of stock quickly and cheaply for a high-street chain.
Ethical campaigners and activists argue that the price tag is not the only cost to the industry.
A recent fire at a Bangladesh clothing factory in October killed nine people with 50 people injured.
Kenny Luke, marketing manager at EthicalSuperstore.com, based in Gateshead, said: “Given the exposure of the tragic clothing factory disaster in Bangladesh, we have seen an increase in interest in ethical fashion and a general increase in “buzz” via social media. More people are aware of malpractices within the fashion industry.”
These are some of the malpractices that surround the fashion industry. Social movements such as, Fairtrade, hopes to address these issues and eradicate them in third-word countries:
Child Labour: Young children can be subjected to violence and overtime. Working in squalid and cramped spaces with bad food and no breaks.
Animal Welfare: Some animals are used to provide fur for the fashion industry. Some endangered species are hunted and killed for fur jackets and other clothing. This is one of most controversial subjects within the Ethical Fashion debate.
Pollution: Most garments are treated with harsh chemicals to dye them and can be harmful to those making and wearing them.
Environment: The disposable nature of clothes from the high-street usually results in a landfill or refuse site creating an environmental hazard
Kenny Luke added: “New companies are starting up with a view to providing access to fairly traded and sustainable fashions and more
consumers are demanding transparency within the supply chains of larger stores, which has a trickledown effect of raising awareness from media exposure.”
Ethical Products and Fairtrade
Buying Fairtrade and ethically sourced products means better working conditions and better prices for those in third-world countries.
Kenny Luke said: “The simplest answer would be because people care about people and the planet. They see the injustices in the third world and buy ethically simply as a means to buy ‘guilt-free.’”
There are many Fairtrade and ethically sourced shops across the UK. Find yours here: ethicalconsumer.org