Episode 2, Series 1: Fast Fashion, Human Rights and the Environment

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For episode two, EarthRights dives into the fashion industry, one of the greatest culprits of environmental degradation and unrelenting violators of human rights. Because the fashion industry plays off consumer trends, we want to show you why individuals have the power to change it. As Lily Cole states: “Realise the political power of your money and spend it with the brands you know are treating their workers and the environment in the best possible way”.

The cycle of fashion picked up speed during the industrial revolution in Europe with new textile machines enabling clothes to be mass produced. In the early 1900s, imperialism and colonialism facilitated Britain (and other industrialising nations) to access resources and cheap labour from within the colonies it had invaded.

In the 60s, fashion trends started to move at a DIZZYING speed – young people embraced cheaply made clothes to follow cat-walk trends.

So, what’s the environmental impact of the last 70 years of fast fashion? Be it the hideous amounts of CO2 required to transport goods across the world, the water shortages caused by the intensive cotton manufacturing process, the toxic chemicals and dyes contaminating people’s drinking water supplies, or micro-plastics used to make synthetic fibres now being found inside human cells – one thing is abundantly clear, fast fashion needs to SLOW down.

The fashion industry also has a terrible record of protecting human rights. Because supply chains are long and apparel company bosses are far removed from individual experiences in garment factories, they do not take anywhere near enough responsibility for the effect of their decisions. The factories are unsafe to work in, there are numerous cases of forced labour, including child labour where children are forced to mine mica for makeup. And women (making up the majority of the garment work force) face daily sexual abuse and harassment.

What can you do to help? At the end of the episode, Pippa and Mel will look at some of the ways you can be a more conscientious shopper. Look at the Fashion Revolution’s transparency index and on the GoodOnYou app to find out how environmentally and socially responsible the brand is.