Art by Elizabeth Brummer
Ethical fashion is a buzzword in pop culture progressivism, but how much do people really know about sustainable ethics in the industry? It has become easier for companies to greenwash — convey a false impression of environmentalism — their products in order to maintain a sustainable and ethical appearance.
This current generation of college students appears to have a keen eye for authenticity and forces companies to be transparent. Yet, if students look no further than the greenwashed surface level, the ethical component of factory workers’ rights can remain obsolete.
The 2013 Dhaka garment factory collapse in Bangladesh is a prime example of how the capitalist demand for profit destroyed the lives of hundreds.
The factory illegally constructed the top floors that led to its collapse, injuring and killing over 2,000 workers. Its collapse drew attention to the unsafe working conditions and inhumane wages.
In her book “Just Water,” Christiana Zenner writes, “Capitalist systems of social, economic, and political power rely on the ongoing oppression of an underclass.” This idea of capitalism is highlighted in the oppressive working conditions of the fashion industry.
This, of course, is not to say that all sustainable fashion companies solely produce environmental clothing but disregard their employees.
Companies like Everlane have goals of transparency and ethical factory work. They go above and beyond claims of sustainable fashion and prioritize the lives of those creating their clothing through fair wages, personal relationships and positive working environments.
It can feel overwhelming to think for too long about the ethics that go into the clothes that students wear daily. But there are ways to practice greater awareness of the companies they support.
A common critique of sustainable and ethical fashion is that it is unaffordable for students. Luckily, Pepperdine students live close to Los Angeles, where there are numerous locations to buy second-hand clothing.
Purchasing second-hand clothing keeps old clothing out of landfills and allows new owners to honor those who created the clothes by extending their use-cycle. These clothing items are often much cheaper than buying something new and are unique additions to anyone’s closet.
Companies are also beginning to recognize the value in creating quality pieces that last longer versus cheap pieces that wear out quickly. Students can be mindful of buying less clothing of greater quality to promote sustainable fashion habits.
While the ethics behind the fashion industry seem like an issue that students can do nothing about, demanding transparency is essential for creating better working conditions.
As consumers, people have the power to prioritize ethics over capitalism. If people do not want to consume unethical products, companies have no choice but to be honest about their factory conditions and make them better.
The hands that work to create the clothes people wear every day deserve to be honored and treated humanely. It is time for students to challenge the status quo of the capitalist fashion industry and protect the rights of factory workers.
It is essential to weigh the cost and convenience of fast fashion clothing. In her article in the Graphic, Jessica Ragsdale writes more in-depth about the ethics of fast fashion and labor laws.
Begin by asking questions about the companies people are investing in, and see what can be done better and more ethically.
Email Lexi Scanlon: firstname.lastname@example.org