Fashion changes at an unbelievable rate. Last week I bought a leather belt-corset online for its full price. This week, it’s on special. I just can’t win. As a gal working part time, it’s hard to always look fabulous. I often adopt an attitude of indifference and apathy in order to brush off my inability to stay on trend. This is done by using phrases such as: "Duh, it’s vintage" and "I’m not giving into the man, man."
These days though, it’s kind of easy to stay relatively on trend. You’ve got a smorgasbord of shops with cheap and fashionable items. The problem with the availability of cheap-ass clothes is that not all of these clothes were made ethically, with some brands refusing to tell consumers where its factories are based, hence why we have laws to protect factory workers. Most employees of these factories are poor women, working long hours to meet tight deadlines.
In 2013, the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,137 people with 200 still missing to this day. The Rana Plaza factory was producing clothes for American brands such as J.C Penney and Walmart. It was the biggest garment factory disaster to date. Since the collapse, many companies have felt the pressure to change the codes of conduct and make work environments safer for workers whilst increasing workers’ pay.
But how do we know which brands are the good guys and which brands are still using unethical methods of production?
There are now lists published online detailing which Australian retailers publish the location of their factories. According to Oxfam, the companies on the naughty list are: The Just Group (Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Dotti etc), Best & Less, Topshop, Zara and Factory X (Gorman, Dangerfield & Alana Hill).
Although losing Topshop and Zara feels like a punch in the tit, the nice list is pretty comprehensive. It includes Wesfarmers (Target, Coles and Kmart), H&M, GAP, Cotton On Group, Jeanswest, Forever New, Uniqlo and ASOS. For the full list of brands and their levels of transparency visit the Oxfam website.
It’s always hard to be 100% sustainable. If you’re a little more aware of where you shop, you can help out people all over the world and still stay #OnTrend. But hey, before you shop til’ you drop, remember that fast fashion contributes to landfill too, and these fast brands aren’t always the best for our environment despite their efforts to be more ethically transparent. We can combat this by checking out vintage stores, spending a little bit more for basic items that will never go out of fashion and donating your clothes to Vinnies or Lifeline if they’re still in good condition (and you’re over the ‘Vote For Pedro’ slogan of 2004).
Laura is a 21-year-old Italian grandmother who likes coffee, going to bed early and snapchat filters. Follow her on Instagram @laurajmasia.