On a lovely Friday morning, January 29, I got to chat with the ladies behind the podcast, Loudmouth Ladkis, a South Asian women-run show where the two hosts discuss issues surrounding Desi and Western culture.

Fast Fashion and its Gender-Based Implications

Fast fashion is slowly garnering more attention as millennials. The youth of Gen-Z incorporate the practices of sustainable living into their everyday habits, whether it be through shamelessly buying their stresses away on the thrift app, Depop, or making conscious choices to consume oat milk in their coffee for an extra $0.80. Even though they owe massive amounts of money to their academic institutions and credit card companies

Fast fashion’s definition is titular—it features the production of clothing at rapid speeds to keep up with the trends. This, in turn, results in poorly-made clothes sold for high prices at the cost of the environmental surroundings of a sweatshop as well as the health and safety of garment workers. 

I discovered the slow fashion movement through masterfully filmed YouTube videos by Madelyn De La Rosa. Her “Slow Fashion” video, in particular, caught my attention in the summer of 2017. In the description, she provided multiple resources directing audiences to learn more about the “slow” fashion movement, “… an awareness and approach to fashion, which considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, particularly focusing on sustainability. It involves buying better-quality garments that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals, and the planet” (What is Slow Fashion). 

A few months later that fall, I took it upon myself to write about the repercussions of fast fashion on garment workers in Southeast Asia for my then amateurish Instagram blog, the PieFace Column

“The environmental effects of fast fashion are rapidly increasing, as 13 million tons of textile waste is being generated annually (2013). Not only has it affected our atmosphere, but it puts laborers in the developing world in harm’s way. Take two of the industry’s latest disasters, the collapsing of a Bangladesh clothing factory in 2013, killing over 1,000 workers and 13 killed in a Dhaka garment factory just this July.”

It wasn’t until I had done the research for the aforementioned piece that I realized just how quick fast fashion companies were to put garment workers in harm’s way in the name of high fashion mimicry. From that point on, I pushed myself to rummage through the wardrobes of my parents and grandparents. I taught myself to keep an eye out for good pieces while “thrifting” at Goodwill and Out of the Closet. 

By repurposing clothes in your elders’ closets and buying them secondhand from thrift stores, you’re able to give old clothes new life as opposed to having them be thrown away and contributing to landfill waste. In addition, it lowers your carbon footprint, aids in water preservation, and reduces chemical pollution, according to Erich Lawson of Green and Prosperous. Suffice it to say that the energy and resources put into making any given piece of fast fashion are being conserved when you thrift or repurpose a clothing item. On the other hand, by participating in the slow fashion movement and buying more sustainably-made clothing, you are investing in materials that are durable and long-lasting; clothes that will essentially last you a lifetime, and perhaps even someone else’s once that article of clothing is passed down or donated to a thrift store. 

For one of my final projects last semester at college, we were to comment on the detrimental commodity fetishism and capitalistic nature of consumption through the strategy of marketing products by appealing to relevant social issues. It only seemed right to revisit fast fashion. When I did so, I came across a Guardian article by Kate Hodal entitled, “Abuse is daily reality for female garment workers for Gap and H&M, says report.” Hodal reported that 540 workers at Gap and H&M factories in Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka have described acts of sexual and physical abuse, but most are reluctant to report such acts due to fear of backlash from their employers and higher-ups. 

According to Remake, a global community of millennial and Gen Z women is committed to putting a halt to the fast fashion industry. There are 75,000,000 garment workers who work tirelessly for fashion corporations in inhumane conditions as of 2017. Eighty percent of those workers are women aged 18-24. They work for poverty wages—around $3 an hour— and are often cheated into working 60 to 140 hours overtime for the “overtime pay.”  

Tara Fenwick, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, delineated in her 2008 study “Women Learning in Garment Work: Solidarity and Sociality” that it wasn’t until the late 20th century when information deserts in regards to the faults of sweatshops increased. Now, in 2020, little has been revealed about their rights and working conditions. Still, with what we do know, global alliances such as the Fashion Revolution, the Clean Clothes Campaign, the Asia Floor Wage AllianceRemake, and so many others are pushing to raise awareness and fight for Asian female garment workers who face nightmarish realities when they go to work each day.

However, now that we know the repercussions of fast fashion stretch beyond striking blows to the environment and well-being of female garment workers, where do we start? How can we help?  

Enter Fast Fashion and its Gender-Based Implications: a series of deep dives and examinations of fast fashion and its gender-based implications. To answer these questions, and to further my own understanding, I hope to delve into each facet of the garment work issue with nuance and curiosity so we can figure out how to shop more sustainably, fight for the basic human rights of Asian female garment workers, and understand how the exploitation of sweatshop workers phenomenon came to be in the first place. Some of the topics we’ll be exploring include but are not limited to:

  • Feminization of Labor 

  • Globalization: Moving Sweatshops Overseas from the US and Canada 

  • Activism within Sweatshops

  • Exploitation: taking advantage of those who don’t have better work options 

    • Labor alternatives for those in poverty

    • Sweatshop Safety 

  • The Fashion Revolution

  • Affordability of Slow Fashion 

  • Convenient vs. Radical Transparency: Everlane and Reformation

I look forward to debunking and bringing light to these issues, learning as I comb through research and a variety of sources to share reliable and essential information that directly affect Asian women.  

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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