Ever think about how lucky we are to be living today? As opposed to, say, the 1950’s, when women were conditioned to be housewives by television, advertising, and, yes, fashion. In the 50’s, women’s clothes were specifically designed to be comfortable enough to do menial tasks such as cooking and cleaning while also shaping the wearer into an exaggerated hourglass figure. Basically, these fashions were created by and for men.
Today, there are some great and powerful women in fashion (check out this recent Vogue article for 15 of them!) BUUUUT, there are still some pretty appalling statistics. Business of Fashion reported that only 14% of 50 major fashion companies are run by women, and during major fashion weeks in Milan, London, and New York, there were more men designing women’s clothes than women! What’s worse? BoF reports that “women account for the majority of those entering the workforce, often dominating brands’ entry-level creative positions and fashion schools’ student bodies,” and yet the number of women leaders is still so low.
“…only 14% of 50 major fashion companies are run by women…”
This is only the surface of female exploitation in fashion. We believe that there are three main tiers- designer exploitation(what you’ve just read about), manufacturer exploitation, and consumer exploitation. A big ol’ ugly trifecta of exploitation, that exists under the guise of fast fashion. H&M, Forever 21, and Zara, just to name a few, are all guilty brands.
NO ONE IS SAFE. Except, of course, the people on top. Sadly, who suffers most are the people we never hear about.
Manufacturer exploitation occurs in many impoverished countries such as Bangladesh, Somalia, and Pakistan, but also in larger, more developed countries like India, China, and even the USA. In the garment industry there exists a surprising lack of regulations that ensure fair pay and treatment for workers. And, even when regulated, there are factories breaking the rules every day by employing children, forcing overtime, and allowing unsafe environments for their workers. This type of exploitation is easy to overlook, as we are far removed from it and it happens behind closed doors. But it deserves as much attention as it’s counterparts.
Consumer exploitation is created when companies advertise their products in ways that damage the perception of self worth. The fashion industry’s insistence on using tall, slender, white models to promote their clothes is oppressive. In a culture that places so much pressure on women to be beautiful above all else, impossible beauty standards are overtly damaging.
There have been great efforts lately in body positivity and inclusion, but we need to continue and spread. For every earnest effort, there is one that capitalizes on words like ‘curvy‘ or appropriates cultural symbols.
So, FYI– you’re all beautiful. Don’t let fast fashion tell you otherwise.
In the future, we will be posting more on each of these topics, so stay tuned for fresh info and ways you can fight against exploitation!