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By Suhani Batwara | I was an accessory to fast fashion until I understood its repercussions on the environment, the people and the conditions of workers in the industry. Customers now are becoming extremely greedy – we want trendy fashion at extremely cheap prices. A clothing collection barely stays on the racks for more than 12 weeks, after which it goes down for sale. Our vicious cycle of overconsumption and hard bargaining has led to excessive stocks and constant markdowns. But is this really sustainable?
Fast Fashion refers to producing apparel and accessory products at the fastest speed and at cheapest prices, mostly from third-world countries where labor is cheap and the population has a lower income.
The basic human rights of these workers are compromised and this rampant abuse by some of the biggest fashion conglomerates is the pinnacle of 21st century slavery. Besides rigorous working schedules and constant repetitiveness, there are additional hurdles that workers have to face – foremost among them, the poor working conditions. There are also issues such as the running of sweatshops, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and child abuse. Many companies turn a blind eye to all this, because they won’t profit from addressing these issues.
Broken Dreams – Sweatshops
Sweatshops are part of a vicious cycle where people are drawn by the dream that working for a luxurious brand will make their income slightly better or that, because they’re poor, they cannot be choosers and working at such factories is their only source of livelihood.
Often, such workers have to work in unhygienic conditions which affect them at a physical, mental and emotional level. The settings in this sweatshops are so bad that human rights organizations predict that many of these workers might die due to malnutrition, physical abuse and exhaustion.
This sorry saga does not end with only fast fashion brands being held guilty: luxury fashion brands have also been accused of using the same methods. With so many fashion bigwigs joining the bandwagon of modern day slavery, it seems impossible to find a way out. Most consumers are unaware of the slavery they are buying from because they’re busy chasing after the madness of latest trends.
Things are changing with small steps. Organizations such as Fashion Revolution are trying to target the problem with their project the Fashion Transparency Index. This document reviews and ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel retailers on the level of information they disclose regarding their suppliers. With this, consumers will be able to decide if they still want to purchase from said retailers depending on the methods they use to produce their stock. Fashion Revolution offers ways to help the cause, either through donations or with your own voice. Donations can be made through their website, along with options on how to get involved with events and raise awareness on the subject. Increasingly, more brands are getting involved with ending fast fashion by posting a supplier list so that their customers are able to learn if the company is ethical. If people are made aware on what goes into making that pretty looking piece of cloth or product, the world will stop ignoring the plight of the fast fashion workforce and join hands towards improving this industry’s attitude.
Behind The Bling – Dark Mines
Our wardrobes aren’t just about clothes. We adorn ourselves with jewelry and watches. Gold and diamond jewelry in particular are frequently purchased as gifts for loved ones and for special occasions, such as engagement and weddings rings. Globally, about 90 million carats of rough diamonds and 1,600 tons of gold are mined for jewelry every year, generating over US$300 billion in revenue.
Gold and diamond mining is an important source of income for millions of workers, but at great personal risk to the miners. Children have been injured and killed when working in small-scale gold or diamond mining pits. Indigenous peoples and other local residents near mines have been forcibly displaced. Civilians have suffered enormously as abusive armed groups enrich themselves by exploiting gold and diamonds. Mines have polluted waterways and soil with toxic chemicals, harming the health and livelihoods of local communities. By the time a piece of jewelry is offered for sale, it may be very difficult to know the origins of the gold or diamonds it contains, or whether they are tainted by human rights abuses or environmental harms. This needs to change.
How You Can Help
Making the fashion and jewelry industry use ethical and sustainable solutions is going to be a long and tiring battle. But one thing I am sure of is that I will not give up.
This was my inspiration to set up Tanzire, a sustainable company, where our mission and vision reflects, “Don’t let the charm of the jewelry dull our environment and many innocent lives”. We collaborate with jewelry designers from around the globe who also recognize such issues and are dedicated to solving them. From reusing and recycling metals, to using durable and non-toxic materials, our jewelry speaks for itself. In addition, we try to solve the waste that stems from consumerism and being unable to make an informed decision, where we buy something, wear it once, and just keep it aside. With the integration of Augmented Reality (AR) technology in the online buying process of jewelry, we will be able to reduce solid waste and, hopefully, our carbon footprint.
Moreover, most of our jewelry collection are designed for the purpose of multi-use, like rings that can be used as pendants and earrings that can be worn in several ways. In this way, you can have a limited collection and still be able to wear jewelry in different ways for different occasion. At Tanzire, our jewelry designers come from various parts of the world. They pour their hearts out to design a piece which reflects their stories, inspirations and experiences. Having a limited collection of jewelry that is designed with meaning and uniqueness would bring more value to your personality, rather than buying tens of pieces of jewelry that contains no meaning.
The worst form of human exploitation has been exposed within the fashion industry. Our generation has the power. We have a voice. We know the law. We can’t let this inhumanity seep into our lives. Is the loss of dignity and even life of another human being really worth the clothes and jewelry we take pride in, simply because we want to flaunt our style and fashion at a dirt cheap rate? The choice is entirely ours. It’s up to us if we want to give the clipped wings of the workers a chance to heal and soar high.
Attribution: Human Rights Watch
About The Author
Suhani is a 22 year old recent graduate who is all set to revolutionize the jewelry industry. She is the Founder of Tanzire, an online marketplace for contemporary jewelry lovers. Beside working day and night to make Tanzire a living reality, she loves traveling and is a nature enthusiast. Find out more about Tanzire at www.tanzire.co/blog/about-us or email her at [email protected].