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COVID-19 is Highlighting the Fashion Industry’s Ugly Side and it is Truly Shocking

It’s no secret that the fashion industry has long been plagued by criticisms surrounding its unethical production practices and negative impact on the environment. However, its problems seem to be intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic making it harder for the industry to keep its skeletons in the closet.

Writer Nicky Watkinson sheds light on the dark side of fashion. Find out why she thinks the current reckoning brought by the global health crisis has been a long time coming.

Struggling Brands, Struggling Workers

RogerUtting/Deposit Photos: Primark is a fast-fashion retailer that operates over 370 locations around the world

Numerous fashion brands produce their products overseas. While this allows them to sell affordable clothes and keep up with trends, outsourcing production to poorer nations also comes with serious consequences.

For example, high street fashion brands Matalan and Primark ended up canceling and suspending billions worth of orders from their factories in Bangladesh. Despite this, the brands reportedly failed to offer any financial assistance resulting in them being accused of abandoning their workers and suppliers at a time of need.

Thus, factory workers and owners are left scrambling to find ways to weather the pandemic without a significant cash reserve, Watkinson wrote.

Systemic Problems

londondeposit/Deposit Photos: A reported 85% of all textiles that are produced each year end up in a landfill

Unfortunately, Watkinson observed that even factories on British soil are facing criticisms for its unsanitary working conditions and paying extremely low salaries. For example, ASOS made headlines when its unhygienic facilities reportedly lead to COVID-19 outbreaks among its workers.

Other systemic problems worsened by the coronavirus pandemic are worker exploitation, extreme waste, and obscure supply chains. Despite these pressing issues coming to light, Watkinson laments that there are no sustainable solutions to address them yet.

She also pointed out some initiatives that seek to reduce waste and support workers only put the burden of solving the fashion industry’s problems on the consumer instead of the brands.

Time for Accountability

Dmyrto_Z/Deposit Photos: More and more people are starting to boycott fast-fashion brands in favor of more ethical brands

Thus, Watkinson said that now is the time for us to reflect on our relationship with fast fashion and be aware of our role in a society that is deeply consumer-oriented. She emphasizes how making ethical choices when it comes to fashion is something that not only consumers should practice.

Both the government and corporations in the fashion industry should be held accountable. In turn, consumers must resort to collective action to urge these institutions to address pressing issues for systemic change to happen.

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