The pandemic and subsequent lock down led to a rapid growth of fast fashion companies. Report has it that there was increased online purchase of fashion items during this period, which in turned skyrocket their sales by 60% at least.
To be sure we are on the same page, fast fashion is the word used to describe cheap clothes, produced by mass-market retailer in response to the latest trends. Typical examples of a fast fashion company includes Zara, H&M, Shein and Fashion Nova. If you are fashion savvy, even in the least bit, then chances are you’ve heard of these brands. You most probably own some of their clothings too. You might have noticed their increased popularity lately too.
Secondary to the already established fact that these brands are not planet-friendly in their Modus operandi, lately, they are being accused of unethical labor practices. By this, we are talking labor exploitation, inadequate protection of workers, underpaid labor, forced and even child labor!
Conscious consumers have argued and are still arguing that the ability of these brands to produce in gobs like they do can only rely on the use of a large labor force. Which prompts the question, how do they accrue and sustain this labor with their products being sold so cheaply?
In November 2019, New York Times reported that Fashion Nova clothes are made by underpaid sewers in Los Angeles sweatshops. Not only do these sewers get paid illegally below the minimum wage. They are made to work overtime with almost no day off. Which is very much against the labor laws of the country.
In much the same vein, in November 2021, BOF announced that Shein was found guilty of violating Chinese labor laws. Workers are also subjected to unhealthy working conditions and meager pay. Some of the staff attested to working 12-14 hours per day and only one day off in a whole month. As against the Chinese labor law. Recall that Shein‘s factories are based in Guangzhou, China.
Even TikTok influencers, who are the most vital sales instruments of these companies have not stayed silent on Shein’s rumored unethical labor. Recently a tiktoker called attention to a “Need your help” sentence found on the tag of a dress she purchased. That may have been quoted out of context, it reiterates the fact that, the folks have questions.
Ultimately, these brands continue to deny these allegations. Sometimes, they proceed to enforce social impact policies against modern day slavery and human trafficking. Although, there is no tangible evidence to substantiate these claims yet. We are also left to wonder where this smoke is coming from, if there is no fire around these fast fashion companies.