The Role of Poverty in Fast Fashion

Welcome back to RISE’s blog! If you’re a regular reader, you’ll find that this post is a little different than normal, and a topic that I’ve had on my heart for a while to discuss. If you’re a new reader, thanks so much for joining us, and feel free to check out all of our blog posts on marketing your ethical brand.

So this question started brewing in my mind back in June 2017. I was on a trip back ‘home’ to New Jersey (if you know me, home is quite a few places now, but Jersey is where I’m originally from), and was visiting my best friend in Jersey City. As we made our way to the train to get to New York, we passed a busy street in Jersey City, that was lined with discount clothing stores, for ‘deals’ as low as $2. The first thought that came to my head was to roll my eyes, and think ‘ugh fast fashion,’ but then I started to look around at where I was.

Like most cities, Jersey City definitely has its’ own struggle with poverty, especially during a time when much gentrification is happening. I was sitting in front of this large sign promoting fast fashion, thinking to myself, ‘yes this is wrong, but honestly much of this population might not be able to afford much more.’

Now I understand that there are thrift shops, vintage shops, resale items, and all of those options, but in that moment it crossed my mind that many times those experiencing poverty might have much more on their mind than worrying about the impact that their clothing is making. This started to make me question the accessibility of ethical fashion.

I’m not entirely sure what the main point of this post is, maybe only to question how we can improve as an industry, but recently I’ve been thinking more and more about the accessiblity of ethical fashion, and the role that poverty plays in those purchasing fast fashion.

Ideally, it would be incredible to create a co-op in every city experiencing poverty, that employs the population to create their own clothing, and clothing for their community, giving back to the place they live, giving a living wage to the population, giving ethical clothing options to those around, and giving a great alternative to buying fast fashion. However, that is not always possible. So then what? How do we make ethical fashion accesible to those who have much more on their plate to worry about? To those struggling financially? To those whose main concern is putting food on the table for their children, and making sure those children themselves have clothing to wear to school.

And in no way do I mean to minimize the way that fast fashion is horribly impacting other areas of the world, I’ve just began to question as a community how we can make ethics accessible to everyone, while also making a positive impact on communities both domestic and abroad. I’m curious to hear your feedback, feel free to leave a comment here or on our latest Instagram post!

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