The human rights cost of fast fashion

by Kayleigh White |

11 million garments end up in UK landfills each year | image from

The fast-fashion industry is a fast-growing environmental, economic and moral problem, and one that often isn’t discussed. 3 in 10 people claim that they are reluctant to change their fast-fashion habits, which adds to the 11 million garments that end up in UK landfill each year.

As students, we’re easily tempted into discounts, ordering cheap products from big brands online for convenience, such as Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo and Nasty Gal. However, we rarely stop to consider the effects that this has on our surroundings. Zara, one of the biggest suppliers to the fast-fashion industry, produces 18 new lines annually, which are made within 3 weeks.

This disastrous link between capitalism and consumerism raises a moral question

Not only does this have a damaging impact on the environment and sustainable living, but this disastrous link between capitalism and consumerism raises a moral question too. Most workers that are enslaved into production for the fast-fashion industry are paid low wages to work in poor conditions, for 120 hours a week on average, but still struggle every month.

One of the worst industrial accidents was the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh in 2013, in which 1134 workers were killed and over 2000 injured when a building collapsed. It was concluded that the incident was preventable, had the building been cared for, and that the environment should have been declared unsafe for use. Protests for higher wages and better conditions result in protest often end in violence, and the repressive cycle of the fast-fashion industry continues.

Therefore, we need to ask ourselves: “what can we do about it? How can we contribute to sustainable living? What solutions can we create?” Students can most definitely have a huge impact on preventing the fast-fashion industry from expanding.

The Amnesty Society are the answer. They are organising a ‘Kilo Swap Sale’ in late November at the Stannary over 2 weekdays, with prices starting at as little as £1. This will include jewellery, clothing and homeware. All money raised will go to exploited workers within the fast-fashion industry, and all unwanted clothes will be donated to a local refugee centre. To get involved, the SU Amnesty International Society are contactable through their Facebook page.

Fashion doesn’t have to be expensive!

Lastly, top tips for sustainable fashion include buying from charity shops, attending clothes swap sales, or buying from reliable, ethically friendly brands that create long-lasting fashion; as students, fashion doesn’t have to be expensive! As one unified body, we can prevent the industry from increasing its profits, sustaining the environment’s already drastic situation, and help those who are trapped working within these devastating conditions.