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How to Dress Ethically Following the Boohoo Boycott

After it was recently revealed that the clothing company Boohoo exploited workers in its factory in England, you may be left feeling guilty, concerned and curious about where to shop for ethical and affordable clothes.

As consumers, we deserve clarity. So this article is dedicated to shedding light on the brutal billionaires behind fast fashion brands and explaining how to dress ethically in response to the devastating scandal.

Photograph by Vivek Chaudhary

Photograph by Vivek Chaudhary

WHAT DID THE BOOHOO INVESTIGATION REVEAL?

In their undercover investigation, The Sunday Times has disclosed that some workers in the Leicester factory based in the UK have been paid as little as £3.50 an hour which is severely under minimum wage. Not only are the workers underpaid, the physical working conditions are horrendous too.

Despite Leicester being a Coronavirus hotspot, the factory owners failed to enforce social distancing and hygiene measures. When employees requested isolation, their basic human right to protect themselves from the virus was denied.

With dresses selling for as little as £3, shopping from Boohoo – as well as the brands it owns including NastyGal, MissPap and PrettyLittleThing – should leave you wondering how on earth do they pay their workers sufficiently? In short, they don’t.

On their website, the Boohoo PLC team state that “our philosophy’s pretty simple: we don’t take life, or fashion, too seriously.” They advertise themselves as a carefree and friendly brand. This harshly contrasts with reality. Actually, Boohoo, some things in life do need to be taken seriously, such as workers’ exploitation and the damage caused by the fast fashion industry.

Boohoo, like many other fashion brands, lacks transparency. The Kamani family (owners of the company) are billionaires worth nearly £1.5 billion, therefore it is dreadful that so many workers are inhumanly impoverished. Labour MP Zarah Sultana spoke out on Twitter, voicing her view that “Billionaires exist because the working class is exploited”.

Photograph by Immo Klink from a protest outside London Fashion Week

Photograph by Immo Klink from a protest outside London Fashion Week

THE TRUTH ABOUT FAST FASHION

The horrific truth is that secretive slave labour isn’t uncommon within the industry – this is something we need to consider when buying clothes.

Fast fashion is convenient, trendy and affordable, but unfortunately extremely unethical. Many brands market themselves as progressive in spite of their exploitative treatment towards impoverished female workers in places such as Asia where people are desperate for any form of work.

Due to influencer culture and ever-changing trends, fast fashion is normalised in our modern society. So much so that a large proportion of young people are oblivious to the horror behind their garments. Stories emerging about Boohoo’s Leicester factory opens our eyes to the devastation despite the issue being apparent in poverty-stricken countries for several years.

Lucy Siegle, nature and climate journalist, perfectly summarises the issue in The True Cost documentary: “fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.

3 WAYS TO DRESS ETHICALLY

Accessing sustainable, slow fashion can certainly be difficult as many websites are expensive and charity shops often have limited stock.

This isn’t a problem that can be resolved overnight. Many fast fashion corporations need to be held accountable before we criticise oblivious consumers. However, if you’re now clothing-conscious, here are 3 ways to start shopping and dressing ethically.

DO YOUR BRAND RESEARCH

Now that you know all about Boohoo’s backstory, you may be keen to download an app called Good On You to help your search for beautiful, ethical clothing. Simply search the name of a particular retailer and you’ll be provided with statistics and ratings regarding labour, the environment and animal welfare.

Knowing the story behind your garments is vital, by using the app you will be able to find high quality brands that don’t exploit staff.

MAKE VINTAGE SHOPS YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND

Vintage clothes are on trend at the moment so why not explore your local charity shops? Second hand clothes may be old but gold as you discover timeless pieces that have the potential to be worn forever.

You may worry that charity shops are becoming overpriced due to the vintage trend attracting many young people. Not to worry ─ kilo sales are the answer. Held all around the UK, these shops charge you per kilo of clothes. So, go mad, fill up your basket and be confident that you can go home with a bag of affordable, retro pieces.

GET CREATIVE AND REWORK

A big factor that causes people to constantly turn to fast fashion brands is getting bored of re-wearing the same items. Next time you consider throwing a garment away and replacing it with something new, perhaps reinvent it yourself.

Jeans the wrong length? Turn them into shorts. Got an old top? Use the material for another piece. You may be surprised how you can easily make old clothes seem brand new by reworking. YouTubers such as JENerationDIY show how it’s done in crafty videos that are inspiring and easy to follow.

Join us in taking small steps on the journey to moral wardrobes! The Brighton Girl network regularly holds clothes swaps (a great way to donate old clothes and get new pieces for your own wardrobe!) see when their next event is on the Brighton Girl Facebook Group.

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