And no end in sight
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
Fast fashion really makes my world go round. And it’s not just me: many other economically minded guys or gals who also want to look great flock to stores like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, and Urban Behaviour. These mall destination stores are bursting at the seams with ready-to-wear clothes that are so on-trend they are sometimes literally stolen from high-end designers. Plus, you can usually put together a complete look for under a hundred bucks. What’s not to love?
Actually, there’s a whole lot not to love about fast fashion. The real cost of that $6-zipper skirt could be the workplace safety of people who work overseas in the garment industry making those clothes. And it seems like on some level we all know that. However conscious we are of it, we must suspect that foul play is involved when it comes to $2-tank tops.
So why the cognitive dissonance? Why don’t we take a stand and stop consuming fast fashion?
Because fast fashion, while creating problems in vulnerable developing nations, fixes a problem here that is uniquely faced by youth.
Vancouver recently garnered some media attention for being ranked second most unaffordable city to live in. We also have appalling rates of youth unemployment; New Democratic Party MLA and advanced education critic David Eby stated in a press release January 17 that “Statistics Canada says that one in 10 BC youth between the ages of 15 and 19 are not working or in school.”
The press release continues, “Shockingly, the rate of young people not working and not in school between the ages of 25 and 29 is double that, at one in five.”
Youth unemployment remains high, at 13 per cent, and Statistics Canada reports that the province lost 4,400 jobs in 2013. Additionally, according to Eby more youth are seeking social services to stay alive.
You might be wondering how that translates to cheap tank tops made in overseas factories. When things get tough for people, it’s difficult to look past our own problems and see other problems as more urgent. Youth in BC are burdened with debt, underemployed (if employed at all), and struggling to make it. Having a fresh outfit at a job interview could be what lands you that job (any job). And investing in a six-pack of shiny earrings for just shy of $3 could be the shining light in a day otherwise full of drudgery.
Fast fashion. Its cheapness and poor quality make it a guilty pleasure to begin with, but the knowledge of who is suffering behind the scenes makes it even more so. But people have come to expect their cheap togs—and until youth have a higher earning potential and society values locally and ethically made products, fast fashion isn’t going anywhere.
But maybe we should think twice next time we waltz into an everything-for-$5 sale.