Its 2020 folks, and as various Netflix documentaries have already pointed out, we are marionettes, you and I, played by the puppet master, Social Media. Instagram propagates desire, something at the root of all human needs. It makes you want things; it makes you want to be a part of things. Take Beyonce for example. I have no shame in admitting that I have looked at Beyonce and looked at myself and wondered what went wrong and why. Social media has not only glorified these celebrities but has created the desire to become like them. What family, friends and most good therapists will tell you is that good looks and money are shallow. So why do I still want to be Beyonce, why do so many still want to be Beyonce? Appearances. Their style. A defining fashion statement, a vibe they create. Its Business 101, Clothing brands will dress up a fashion icon like Beyonce in clothes that could feed a family of four for a month and post it on Instagram. People will chase the appearance, they chase the whole idea of coming close to being Beyonce, it trends, and the Clothing brand is sitting there with customers outside their door.
It may not be clear yet, but the point I am trying to make is that desire being created is near inevitable. But where we have a choice is being able to look like Beyonce, while also being ethical and environmentally friendly. Plan here is to break down an outfit Beyonce has donned in the past, just to show you how conscious consumerism can clear up your karma while prioritizing style. I want to tell a story; What happens behind the scenes of a Beyonce outfit? What are the companies that style Beyonce and other brands up to, that you probably do not know about? How deep seeded a problem is unethical practices in the fashion industry?
Beyonce in a Burberry outfit for her "Black is king" visual album.
Burberry is a British luxury fashion brand with headquarters in London. In July of 2018 it was confirmed that Burberry had burned unsold clothes and perfumes worth up to £28.6m (Roughly $37m) to protect the brand from counterfeiting and cheapening of its image. The damage here is incredible and twofold, the manufacturing process alone for brands like Burberry are poisoned with air pollution, high energy consumption, around the clock factory production, wastewater etc. The burning of their unsold inventories being the sickening cherry on top, the figure making global headlines. Burberry may be a little high end for some of you, understandable, but our familiar everyday brands have been reported to do the same as well. From Louis Vuitton to H&M and Nike, these companies burn unsold merchandise to create exclusivity via scarcity. It is a fascinating economically sound business strategy. Exclusivity and scarcity create wants, and companies like Nike and H&M have such large loyal customer bases, it becomes less of a want and more of a need. In a haste to procure and flex, we fail to see the flipside of this potentially lethal strategy. The fashion industry is cited to be among some of the worst polluters in the entire world; the burning of perfectly reusable or donatable merchandise being their dirty little secret. This problem does not die with the company, it's rooted in the production cycle. Whistle blowing sales associates and customers have pointed out that burning of old inventories is common among retailers as well. If some of you were wondering what Victoria’s Secret was: they destroy, and dump returned products to prevent reselling. The list goes on, Walmart and JC Penny have been reported to engage in similar harmful practices.
Well baking the earth like a batch of brownies is not the only thing Burberry and other brands are up to. If the bottom line were lemonade, I would imagine you would see them do everything and anything possible to extract every ounce from a lemon, not to mention no sugar either. In late 2017 a report by the Clean Clothes Campaign titled ‘Europe’s Sweatshops’ found Burberry was sourcing and manufacturing garments in countries where worker rights were disregarded. Manufacturing from Serbia allowed Burberry to use ‘Made in Europe’ tags on their products, which most consumers identify with fair ethical working practices. However further research into the manufacturing plants and interviews with garment workers revealed that Minimum wage was a concept that often; did not exist. Additionally, inhumane working conditions, of high temperatures, no air conditioning and the constant threat over workers that they would be sacked on complaining. In June of the same year Ethical Consumer found that Burberry were sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan where predominantly cotton is picked by forced Child labour. The use of inorganic cotton in Uzbekistan also has caused significant environmental devastation to the Aral Sea with NASA releasing photographs. I mean it is only the 20th century far too much to expect companies, to comprise human rights and our planet at the expense of profit. This shines a huge light on the fashion industry, if luxury brands are doing this, what about others lower down the chain? Multiple fast fashion brands including the GAP, Victoria’s Secret, H&M, Zara and Shein have been accused of the similar. Victoria’s Secret and the GAP have had strong accusations of sexual harassment of their models and workers, unethical working environments and even child labour. In 2017 it was reported that Zara had 20 clothing collections with 120,000 designs being sold each year. Additionally, Zara claimed that it could design, produce and get a new product into stores within one week. What was the industry average in 2017? Six months. The very definition of fast fashion. It is not surprising however, there are numerous reports of Zara using slave-like employment standards in factories in Brazil and Argentina.
Zara’s Turkish Sweatshop where wage theft has been an issue.
It is high time we change the adage of “you are what you eat”, to “you are what you wear” I am tired of identifying as a chicken nugget. Jokes apart, we need to remove our support and divert our purchasing power away from fast fashion brands that make money and products on the back of damaging the environment and planet, unsustainable manufacturing procedures and unethical business practices. It is the need of the hour to switch to fashion brands that prioritize the values of conscious consumerism, sustainability and one that does right by their employees. This is precisely what we do here at Emacity- high quality, stylish fashion products that are easy on mother nature and come from an empowering fair working environment. So, give us a chance, give yourself a chance! We want you to be your version of Beyonce, to “drip in finesse” but only this time, be proud and assured of what you are wearing!