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Standing up against un-ethical fashion

The Books Blog


I’m Alana, I’m 21-years-old, and I’m a part of The Fashion Revolution.

Living in a Western country, it's easy to forget about the disasters, the violence, and the abuse continually happening all over the planet. And what’s even more uncomfortable, is the realization that we are all, consciously or not, supporting the system which continually contributes to the violation of human rights.

This is exactly what has been happening in the fashion industry, and it's been happening for a long time now. But how do we know what to do about it? Finally, with campaigns like The Fashion Revolution, as a young generation we now have the power to change this industry for the better.

It all started with the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh on the 24 April 2013. On that day 1,134 workers were killed and 2,500 injured – an absolutely devastating toll – quickly forgotten by many. But on that day, the fashion revolution was born and it came forward to change the industry, protect workers' rights and livelihoods, and to make fashion a force for good.

Fashion affects all of our lives and modern technology means that it’s far easier to buy than ever before. With the click of a button we can have clothing arrive at our doorstep within 24 hours and although this makes life more convenient for the majority, it is symbolic of the large separation that now exists between those who produce fashion and those who purchase it. It has well and truly become a global industry which entails the employment of workers in many different countries side-by-side with human rights abuses, all for just a single garment that we 'have' to wear to 'that' party.

Yet despite all of the dark things happening in the industry, the part we are exposed to is the more glamorous side. The fashion shows and the magazines tell us exactly what we need to buy every single season, a never-ending amount of clothes to purchase to keep up with the latest trends – constantly being shoved down our throats. It's hard to avoid this pressure when it surrounds us constantly – constant marketing tempting us to make the latest purchase. But as a young generation, we have to get real and see that the truth is: all of this is being paid for, not only by us as individuals, but also with our planet’s natural resources and human lives.

cover for the slave to fashion book by safia miney
Slave to Fashion by Safia Minney. Buy the book. New Internationalist

And just so we're aware: it's not only adults dying for the clothes we wear but children are gravely affected, too. There is a sad realization that we have a staggering double standard here in the UK in that we find child labour to be absolutely unacceptable in this country and yet we buy fashion produced by children from other countries. Our generation, this generation, has the responsibility to protect the next generation of youth in the world and through taking part in the fashion revolution, we can do this. Before, big corporations had no incentive to make changes to dire working practices, but we must demand that they do and this is where our power and responsibility lies as fashion revolutionists.

We must make our voices heard – loud and clear – regarding what we think and know is acceptable business practice and what is not. Our generation has the power to demand this and this power lies not only with our voices but with our purchasing decisions, too. In times when it can be frustrating not knowing what to do about the fashion wrongs, it becomes more evident that as the fashion revolution grows bigger, the answers get clearer. The voices get louder and the actions happen faster.

By only buying ethical fashion or second-hand clothing, we turn our back on fashion that has blood on its hands. When and if un-ethical clothing chains and corporations realize how big of a deal this is to us, the younger generation, they will one day have no choice but to make the changes that we want, because we are the ones who hold the purchasing power. We, as the younger generation, are the targets of their marketing ploys, and if we are buying sensibly or refusing to buy into the unethical fashion at all, then they can't possibly win this battle.'



Editor's note: Many of the topics Alana addresses regarding the fashion industry are covered extensively in Safia Minney's books, Slave to Fashion and Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics, published by New Internationalist. As the discussion around The Fashion Revolution continues, we will be posting more blogs from young voices like Alana about what the future holds for the garment industry.

Alana Watson is a 21-year-old studying Politics at the University of Edinburgh. Originally from the US, she's now living in the UK and has 'a very British accent'. She loves art, creativity, fashion, politics (of course), and new ideas.


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