Do you know where your clothes were made? How about who made them? These questions may sound simple enough, but the answers often lead to some complicated and shocking information.
The fashion industry — namely fast-fashion brands such as H&M and Forever 21 — is wrought with unethical business practices resulting in the mistreatment of garment workers in sweatshops around the world. In Cambodian and Sri Lankan sweatshops, for example, those textile workers are often paid below living wages, are not allowed breaks, and even face discrimination for getting pregnant.
Such workers have minimal rights, and their health and well-being come second to the production of the clothes you might be wearing right now. To ensure you are not supporting these human rights violations in any way, it's important to find out all the information you can before buying garments from any one particular brand.
But sadly, many consumers don't know how much weight a simple buying decision can have, and never bother to ask the most basic questions about their clothes. To prove this is the case, BuzzFeed recently produced a video in Los Angeles where passersby were asked if they knew who made their clothes. Almost all were in the dark, or simply made a lucky guess.
"I have no idea," says one woman in response to the question. "Probably China?" answers another.
While the problems permeating the fashion industry may feel too overwhelming for any one consumer to tackle, it's important to remember we all have the power to ask questions, gather information about the clothes we wear, and make smarter buying choices. As the BuzzFeed reporter says in the video below, we need to ask "What impact do the purchases we make have on the people who make our clothes?"
By doing these simple things, we can help support brands that value fair working practices for their employees, and show big brands we will not stand for the unethical treatment of garment workers in sweatshops. After all, there are plenty of alternatives to fast-fashion brands we can choose from.