May 31, 2013

Fast fashion: are we moving on?

Anna, a survivor of the building collapse in Savar, Bangladesh, lost her hand in the accident.
Wong Maye-E/Associated Press for The New York Times

Worries have been escalating over the news of the collapsed clothing factory building in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24. The topic has become increasingly controversial, heated with the fact that more than a thousand of workers were killed and not to mention that major American and European clothing companies have their products manufactured in Rana Plaza (they include Gap, the British low-cost chain Primark and H&M, the company that has the largest volume of production in the country). Not so long after another garment factory disaster ensued in Tream Tbal, Cambodia - this time around involving a collapsed storage area at a footwear factory, killing two people and injured dozens other.

This issue inevitably brings up the question: is this the price to pay for our cheap, mass-produced clothing? What can be done to improve workers safety, especially in a cheap-labor country like Bangladesh?

Munir Uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images for The New York Times

Part of the answers lie in the initiatives that are in the line and one of them is by launching a petition for factory safety reenforcement in Bangladesh. An accord was recently signed by H&M, Mark and Spencer and Inditex (the parent company of Zara). Other major retailers that did not join the band wagon (including Fast Retailing, the seller of Uniqlo) is doing their part by imposing their own stringent laws of working environment safety.

Don't get me wrong, I do love fast fashion. H&M and Uniqlo (although the latter do not really label themselves as fast fashion) are indeed my top high street retailers of choice. Their innovativeness (H&M has a knack for winning the hearts of the hip and cool, while Uniqlo champs in fabric technology) is one of the things that make me wanting for more clothes to add to my already brimming closet.

But sometimes I have the thought of the need to reflect myself on the whimsical purchases and over-rushed decisions in buying something that, more often than not, are fleetingly trendy and of questionable quality. Of course there's this old adage that preaches for more quality instead of endless quantity. Not to mention the problems of credit card burden and environmental footprint that purchasing mass lower quality products has caused, on top of the ethical issues like the minimal wages and the safety matters that the garment workers face.

In my opinion today's public is more educated and is readily exposed to more information regarding the manufacturing of their favorite products, brand history and the overall retail experience. Thanks to educational videos like the Business of Fast Fashion laymen can actually have a better understanding of, well, the overview of business of fast fashion...

Fast fashion is not leaving the disposable clothes-loving generation anywhere soon and they are definitely here to stay. But there is hope to make things better, no matter how painfully sluggish it will be. As consumer awareness is becoming more important, I think the scenario of fast fashion is transforming to a more ethical, environmental-friendly and no less beautiful fashion for all...

words by Hafidzudin Zainal
source: The New York Times, The Business of Fashion,, Youtube

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