Let me take you back in time. It’s 2016, life is both easier and harder (my mental health sucked, but there were no pandemics). It’s spring time, it has just started being warm outside again. I’m taking what I hope is my last economics class. H&M has just had another scandal about how their seamstresses are severely underpaid.
I’m in the first row, to the left next to the window. We are in one of the nicer classrooms, with high tables and chairs. They are all a greyish black. I’m wearing my obnoxious neon green blouse, it was made in Italy. The first page of our economics book is the story of how a white dress is made. Beginning with the cotton farmers, who get close to no money and work with harmful chemicals. Next is the fabric workers and seamstresses, both who also get close to no money and work in harmful factories. Then it is the transportation, the seller and the profit. In the end the dress is bought by a girl who is about to graduate, for a low sum of money, ie, around 300 kr. The majority of the money goes to the company selling the dress, not the people who made it.
Our first lesson is a debate in responsibility. Is it the companys’ responsibility, the manufacturers? Or is the responsibility ours, the consumers? Since the H&M scandal became public literally days before our lesson, it quickly became what the debate revolved around. I say “Because we now know how badly the workers are treated, it is now our responsibility to stop supporting a company that allows it to happen. It is our responsibility to stay away from H&M until they fix the problem.”
I am not capable of saying something and then backtracking. It is not in my character. And since I had said it was our responsibility, I had to act responsible, thus I stopped with H&M. Eventually that stop spread to all other fast fashion companies, because even if there had been no news scandals about them there is no way to sell clothes that cheap without exploitation. We all know it, so for me to boycott H&M and not Zara would be hypocritical.
During this time I was spending a lot of time with my grandmother, and a lot of that time was in thrift stores, so I had few problems with finding clothes that hadn’t recently been mass manufactured. It also helped that I had a good base of clothes, and that my feet stopped growing early. I still have and use socks from third grade. (They are great, the names of the weekdays are underneath, so when we had a spelling test on the weekday I simply wore the Wednesday socks and cheated.) Of course I will eventually have to buy new socks, just like I buy new underwear, workout clothes and pajamas. Since I’m still a poor student these things are bought in fast fashion stores, I do not get them second hand (even I have limits). But eventually I will be buying all of my clothes in a sustainable way, from places where I know no women have been exploited to make them. I look forward to that day. There are tons of great companies, so if you can support them instead of fast fashion, do it.
So, that is the story. Nothing to do with the environment, just solidarity to women.