It is becoming increasingly evident that high-street fashion stores have roots in unethical and irresponsible manufacturing practices: it’s time to change the way we shop!
Last week, The Independent reported that Zara customers had found notes sewn into products by unpaid workers. Despite the fact that he was previously sued for unacceptable working conditions and has faced accusations of child labour, the company’s founder has recently replaced Bill Gates as the world’s richest man. The owner of H&M is also presently Sweden’s wealthiest person. Fast fashion sells underpaid labour for the convenience of high street buyers and disproportionately benefits those at the top of the “food chain”.
At charity shops, your money can do more than simply pay for your shopping (and line the pockets of billionaires). While updating your wardrobe, you can actively help people. Whether you’re shopping at Oxfam, which helps to fight poverty internationally, Age UK which provides support to older people in the UK, or PETA which combat animal injustice, your money is doing more than merely paying for an item of clothing. Rather than pouring more cash into the already overflowing pockets of the owners of high-street brands, give it to a worthy cause to help those who really need, and deserve it.
Charity shops are also far cheaper than high-street stores. Although clothes are usually second-hand, shops can only sell items that are in perfect condition and have been cleaned before being donated. This means that you don’t need to worry about products being imperfect, unclean or poor quality – something that can often be an issue in shops on the high street. Spend less, and save more of your money and the planet.
In addition to this, the environmental cost of fast-fashion is deeply damaging. Britain alone sends 235 million items of clothing to landfill each year, contributing to the ever-increasing worldwide waste production. H&M and Zara have also been linked to air and water pollution at viscose factories in Asia – factories supplying these high street giants have been revealed to have been dumping untreated, toxic water directly into rivers and streams. This not only affects local plants and animals, but local people and families. Clean production technologies exist and are widely available – by choosing not to shop with these companies, we can exert pressure on them to do the right thing and make a move towards more sustainable fashion.
Donating to and buying from charity shops not only reduces landfill waste but also minimises our carbon footprint by removing the manufacturing and shipping process that most clothes shops go through. Charity shopping also produces very little waste - with paper tags on most items and only reused plastic bags offered, most charity shops keep packaging to the bare minimum, for reasons of both cost and efficiency. Particularly at Christmas, when the UK produces enough wasted packaging to wrap around Big Ben 260 000 times, avoiding non-recyclable waste is vital.