UnConscious Clothes

While reading chapter 8 written by Angel Parham and Danielle Allen in From Voice to Influence, the discussion on “rooted cosmopolitanism” led me to think about consumerism in America and the effects it has on other countries in the world. This modern day example of slavery suggests that as Americans value cheap clothing over human lives. Stores like Forever 21, H&M, Wal-Mart, Nike, Adidas and Zara, just to name a few, exploit millions of culturally- distant and economically deprived people in the name of fast fashion. Fast fashion is targeted towards people looking for affordable clothing that is in- style at the moment. These pieces are considered fashion because they are cheaply made and intended to have a short shelf life in your closet.

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NPR reported that there used to be four seasons in a year: spring, summer, fall, winter. Today the number have risen to 15 or more. We (Americans) are in a constant search for the next cool, or “in” piece of clothing, without fully, or even remotely, knowing where it came from and how it was made. One question comes into mind: If Americans did know where their clothing came from would they stop buying from stores like the ones mentioned above? Would “buycotting” rear it’s activist head and help to rid our society from depending on the exploitation, oppression, and even the deaths of others in our globalized community? Probably not. Why not? Because we don’t “see ourselves as mutually dependent on faraway others” (260). We don’t see Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Chinese crafting our goods. As a result Parham and Allen suggest that “The less face- to- face interaction people have with one another, the more they must anchor their connections in abstractions” (261). In other words, when we don’t see fast fashion in effect at the beginning stages, when clothing is manufactured overseas , then it is much harder to truly connect on a personal level with such an abstract concept.

For example in 2012 over 100 people died in a Bangladesh clothing factory that caught fire. The factory, according to The Daily Star looked more like a place for confinement than a workplace. There was no emergency exit and the windows were bolted shut, allowing no airflow to circulate the workspace. There was also no rooftop access. More specifically there were very limited ways the workers could escape in the case of an emergency. Tragically the “managers” of the clothing factory deemed the fire alarm to be “faulty” and ordered all of the employees back to their jobs and locked the doors behind them to ensure they wouldn’t waste another moment of valuable working time.

bangladeshfire2012twoway_custom-d636a4c9240a23454ae5dd9fdfa4db2675fbf23a-s800-c85As a result people were trapped and burned alive in the warehouse, “dying like chickens in gas chambers” (Daily Star)- all in the name of fast fashion. Allen and Parham suggest that “human and civil rights of all people around the globe can be protected only if all of us seek to protect the human and civil rights of individual groups [like textile workers] inside particular nations [like Indonesia]” (265). This generates “equitable self- interest” since we are concerned with the well- being of others which will in turn protect and ensure our own prosperity.  

To conclude I also wanted to bring up the detrimental effects fast fashion has on our global community, more specifically our global environment. Prospect Journal reports that “as we argue over the need for renewable energy, we are ignorantly clothed in the product of the second greatest polluting industry in the world – fast fashion”. The production of raw materials like cotton and leather, the usage of chemical waste, and the unregulation of the shipping industry all contribute to the harmful effects on our planet and home.

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