It’s taken them all long enough but finally the philosphically fashionable have finally woken up to what fast fashion means. Well, they’ve managed to get part of the way there at least. For they’ve finally got that poor people make a better living making cheap t shorts than they do planting rice by hand. Those sweatshops are an improvement in their lives that is:
The Covid-19 pandemic has created fresh injustices. Throughout lockdown, garment workers in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam have faced destitution and starvation as big-name fashion retailers have cancelled £20bn in orders. “A lot of these fast fashion companies have pulled contracts where fabric has been ordered, received, cut and sewn,” said Raakhi Shah, CEO of the Circle, at an emergency panel the not-for-proft organisation held this week on fast fashion and slavery. “The brands haven’t fulfilled their side of the agreement. And these thousands of garment workers have been left destitute.”
In Leicester, where exploitation has been known about for years, the context of the coronavirus has refocused attention on garment workers – forced to work throughout lockdown, despite high levels of infection.
It is easy to feel helpless but, says Shah: “There are lots of ways that you can make a difference around this.”
Yes, quite clearly there’s lots you can do about this. Like, start noting that if the absence of fast fashion orders is bad for poor people then the presence of them is good for poor people. So, go buy fast fashion to aid poor people.
Of course, we should go further than this as well. The poorer people in our own countries are able to buy more clothing as a result of clothing being cheap. That makes those people here better off as well.
That is, voluntary exchange makes both ends better off, the people who make clothing and the peop[le who wear it are both better off as a result. Which is pretty exciting really, perhaps some people ought to study this phenomenon?
As to why the opposition in the first place that’s obvious, it’s a sumptuary law:
Perhaps we’re not so far beyond it. For the sniff of contempt there is audible, isn’t it? That the rabble, the mere proles, are able to dress up like those they see as being socially superior to them.
That the poor have more than the one change of clothes, the Sunday best and the other set, is one of the great equalisers of our time. These past few decades have been first time in human civilisation that this has generally been true, it’s not all that long ago that the poor were not considered to need a wardrobe given they had so few robes.
One ethical commentator back in history suggested that our reaction to the naked should not be just to donate clothes, but to split our cloak so as to share both the covering and the cold. Today’s fashion seems to be to sneer at people for being uppity enough to desire their own clothing. That they can have it shows that we’ve advanced materially, the reaction to their being able to do so shows that there’s still some ethical work to do.
Seriously, where do these people get off when they insist that even the poor having a change of clothes is a bad idea?