Why Fast Fashion is an Issue we Need to Talk About on International Women’s Day
Today, March 8th, might just feel like a normal Monday. Maybe you woke up this morning and pulled on your favourite pair of Topshop jeans and a Primark hoodie, before getting ready to begin your day’s work. But today is International Women’s Day, a day in which people come together from all across the world to celebrate the achievements of women, but also to acknowledge how far we still have to go in the fight for equality. One area in which women are disproportionately affected is the fast fashion industry. While it is no secret that the fast fashion industry relies on the suffering of others to facilitate the rapid, mass production of new garments, it is less commonly acknowledged that women make up a large number of those employed in this vicious chain.
80% of garment workers are women. That means that, on average, 80% of Topshop jeans were made by women, 80% of the jumpers you see neatly laid out on shelves in Primark, were made by women, 80% of the t-shirts in New Look, were made by women. And if there are currently 40 million garment workers in the world, as is currently being reported, then that means there are 32 million female garment workers.
That is a staggering figure when we consider that the vast majority of garment workers are not paid a living wage. Right now if you are looking at your top and your jeans, wondering who made them, the answer is probably a woman in a sweatshop. But this does not have to be the way we shop. The cycle of fast fashion does not have to continue damaging our planet and societies forever.
In 2017, the Deloitte Access Economics report found that if we raise the price of a $25 t-shirt by just 21 cents, that's not even 1%, companies can afford to pay factory workers a living wage. While 21 cents may feel like nothing it could transform the life of a garment worker, who would no longer be so oppressed by the cycle of poverty that they could afford to improve their standard of living, if only by a little. This small change accompanied by support for projects, such as Labour Behind the Label
So today, even if you do nothing to celebrate international women’s day, please take a moment to consider the impact the fast fashion industry has on women, and the possible steps you could take to improve the lives of 32 million women.