Education or Legislation—Which is the Path to Ethical Fashion?

by Robyn Campbell

Cheap fashion has saturated our stores, our markets, and our minds. It’s the process of bringing catwalk styles to stores for a very short time before fashions change again, thus necessitating new inventory. It’s an endless cycle and it’s getting old.

Garment workers in Bangladesh have paid the ultimate price so we can pay a couple of dollars for a t-shirt at a fashion chain store. Millions of people working in factories still work in unsafe and unethical conditions. And what about the farmers working in the fields, who deal with pesticides and other harmful chemicals on a daily basis without proper training or equipment?

factoryworkers

It’s easy to feel bad about distant disasters, but if we don’t rise up, the disasters will happen again and again. So what’s the best path to ethical fashion: education or legislation?

Education
Education is about informing consumers about the dirty habits of cheap fashion. There are three main pros of education:

  1. More companies are realizing that ethical fashion is the way of the future (just look at us!).
  2. Celebrities like Anne Hathaway and Naomie Harris are endorsing ethical and eco-friendly fashion, which may encourage others to follow suit.
  3. Technology is making it easier for consumers to find information about company practices and policies.

Unfortunately, not everyone is in favor of education. Liz Jones, a journalist who traveled to Dhaka, India after the Rana Plaza disaster, believes fast fashion requires legislation.

"We keep raising awareness but you go down Oxford Street and see people laden down with bags from Primark," Jones told Triple Pundit. "The British female shopper is not going to change her habits. Legislation is the only thing that will make companies change. We need to lobby government and the people in power."

Legislation
The pros for legislation will obviously vary, depending on who makes the laws and what they cover. Generally speaking, however, there are two primary pros:

  1. Workers receive guaranteed rights, fair pay, and just compensation for violations and accidents.
  2. Governments, corporations, politicians, and construction companies will be legally required to provide fair standards for the workers. This includes regular safety inspections.

Unfortunately, there are some pretty negative cons. Governments could be afraid to push back against big corporations and their stockholders, especially in capitalist countries like the U.S. Second, the cost of producing garments will increase, and this cost hike will likely pass on to consumers.

The question then becomes: are we—as westerners obsessed with cheap, fast fashion—willing to pay more money to ensure a better quality of life and fewer injuries for garment workers? While we hope so (people are beginning to rally against cheap fashion), only time and the market will tell.

Join the discussion
Who do you think is responsible to make the change? The companies that manufacture the apparel? The governments who can have the power to regulate the companies? Or the consumers, who vote with their wallets?

Tell us! Talk to us on our Facebook page, or join the discussion on Twitter. Begin your tweet with @lur_apparel and end it with #endcheapfashion.

Not sure where to start? Try snapping a picture of a piece of apparel that you’ve recently purchased. Where was it made? Who made it? Post or tweet the picture and get your voice heard.

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