Join The Fashion Revolution

By Anastasia Kinsky

Oh dear, it may be time to get serious.

Vogue recently put together a list of high street must-buys from ethical resources. But lets be perfectly honest with ourselves: how many of us actually considered buying any of them? Very few. Why? Because their idea of "high street" is still in three digits, and because only the smallest fraction of the world can afford it.

No, in the real world our shopping, and our consumerist society leads us to H and M, Topshop, Zara and Mango at least once every two months to buy an item which in less than two years time will be unwearable -  whether for fashion reasons or simply because the quality is that low (or tumble driers. Tumble dries are the devil's spawn.)

It makes sense - you're a student, why on earth would you spend more than £30 on a blouse? And it's easy because we're in good old safe England, where none of it matters.

But it does. That silk blouse you are wearing for such a bargain price was dyed by men who are kept as slaves. They are forced to work under threat of violence for 16 hours a day without food. I'm not even talking sweatshop worker, only paid 50p an hour - I'm talking 12-Years-a-Slave style, unpaid, "owned" people who are beaten and work for hours on end without food or water. To top it all off, the dye they are using is poisoning and killing them.

And you can bet that most of the bargains on the high street are made possible by similar situations.

When it comes to slavery, the answer is simple - find out where it's from, and if you don't like the source, don't buy it. The bigger problem is when the workers are in fact paid. It's a horrendously small amount, even when considering the cost of living in that country. However, it is better than nothing, because it gives them enough to get out of the lowest point of poverty. The problem is, therefore, that they are living in conditions so similar to the slaves, without freedom, unable to see their families, under the threat of violence or sexual assault - but boycotting the companies is not the answer.

If we boycott, the companies fail, leaving these people without any work, and ending up unable to help themselves or the family their 50p salaries were saving. Like it or not, these companies do ensure some sort of livelihood. Don't you just love globalisation?

So what can we do? Will we ever fix the world, end all evil, and indeed be fashionable without breaking our banks at the same time? No. People born equal will continue to exploit others, and we capitalists will continue to seek the bargains. But thankfully some NGOs are working on it, trying to get conditions improved in factories in Export Processing zones. Perhaps the answer is to make sure that what ever you're buying is sustainable, and won't end up disintegrating  after a couple of wears. Primark, not matter how great for those bops, is a definite no go. A pair of shoes from Clarks that will last four years rather than that Topshop pair which will be binned after a season,  are wonderful.

It's time we started taking it all seriously, and thinking about who made the item we are wearing. We need to use the media to educate and advertise the fact that the "passed" issue of slavery is in fact still live and thriving. Most importantly, we need to demand a change. 


  1. I don't buy from the stores you've mentioned primarily because of the reasons you've given, but the issue is is that even paying a higher price for your clothes doesn't guaranteed they are made fairly. I might pay £300 for an isabel marrant dress but the label still says made in India. You say find out where it's from, but that isn't easy by any means; using google doesnt really help. Do you have any suggestions about how to check how something was made before you buy it? I'd really appreciate it

  2. Hi there,
    Thanks for the comment.
    You are right - the expensive stuff, and even the "ethical clothing" out there still don't have completely clean supply chains. The item itself may not be made in a sweatshop, as many companies have an effort to make that primary link safe, but that isn't to say that the cotton it was made of was sourced responsibly etc.
    All I can really offer is, actually, google - search the shop it's from, find out the country it tends to get its resources from, maybe the labour laws in that can get an idea that way - if you have a lot of time to spare! But really the answer is to try and make sure that whatever you buy is worth it because it lasts, and won't wear out in two months.
    The other is to demand the change - find the groups on social media, share the articles you find on the BBC, the guardian...Raising awareness is, I believe, the best way to put the pressure on.
    Unfortunately, until that happens, shopping and a sparkling clean conscience don't really go hand in hand. Of course, that doesn't make you the devil for turning an eye once in a while :)