The Link Between Fast Fashion and Human Trafficking

Fast fashion has become an intricate part of modern society. Everyone loves the uses fast fashion has. You can get the cutest clothes at a decent price fairly quick. Nothing appears out of the ordinary, right? Unfortunately, that is not the case. Not many people know this. I didn't even know of this, until I read an article from Stop Modern Day Slavery. Fast fashion and human trafficking have a direct link to each other.

What is fast fashion? Merriam-Webster describes fast fashion as "an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers." Some companies that produce clothing through fast fashion include the following: Nike, Forever 21, Fashion Nova, H&M, Victoria's Secret, Guess, Fashion Nova. I'm sure you know at least two or three of these companies, and they're all guilty of using fast fashion to make a profit. Now, how does fast fashion tie into human trafficking?

Let's revisit the definition of human trafficking. Human trafficking involves "the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act," according to the Department of Homeland Security. Clothing produced by fast fashion are not meant to be worn several times. They're not made for that. They become worn out. That's why they are sold at cheaper prices. Consumers then purchase the clothing, even when they don't need it. How many of us are guilty of that? Nothing to be ashamed of. Again, how does this tie into human trafficking? Human trafficking is about supply and demand. In this case, the demand is clothing.

Globally, we consume 400% more clothing than nearly two decades ago. Think about that. Two decades wasn't that long ago. That was the 1990s. It's insane. When there's such a large demand, there has to be someone supplying the demand. That's where you see sweatshops, forced labor, or child labor come in. In many countries like India or China, people are forced or coerced to work hard hours in a sweatshop for little to no pay. These individuals also work in dangerous conditions, such as breathing in toxic dyes which contain lead or work with heavy machinery. Dressember shared that, "Garment workers work 96 hours per week, often in unventilated spaces where they are forced to breathe in toxic substances. When garment workers fail to meet daily quotas, they may be denied breaks or forbidden from drinking water." The impact of fast fashion on humans is terrible. Sweatshops do go under forced labor. Stop Modern Day Slavery stated, "Children and adults who work in fast fashion are often coerced, forced, or tricked into working conditions that barely supply them with enough money to survive and place them in dangerous working environments that pose a threat to their safety."

If you've ever read that your clothes said on the tag, "Made in Bangladesh," "Made in China," or "Made in India," there's a good chance that the item of clothes you are wearing was made by a victim of human trafficking.

This isn't an issue only affecting third world countries, for the record. This is also happening in the United States. Places like Los Angeles or New York has long been known for containing sweatshops, yet nobody seems to know this. Hard to believe! Sweatshops do exist in the United States.

What can be done to combat this issue? It's definitely difficult, I won't lie. Everyone can't afford designer clothes at major brands or make the time to go in-store to shop. Fast fashion makes it easy for you to get a nice outfit at an affordable price. Nobody says you have to give up fast fashion. Of course there are occasions where you need a nice outfit quickly, but you don't have the time to go to the mall and look. You can avoid the brands that use fast fashion, despite knowing the impacts it has on the environment and people. Buy clothes from brands who are either certified by Fair Trade or B Corporations. Get clothes you can wear for years. This eliminates the need to buy new clothes so often. It's easy to be manipulated by what you see on social media. Don't listen to what influencers or advertisements try to sell you. What I have described are simply, but effective, ways to fight trafficking in the fast fashion industry. Remember: Change begins with you. Everyone has the power to fight modern day slavery!

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