Critical Concluding Remarks
In summary, having the latest trends in-store within days comes with a high ethical price. Fast-fashion relies on cheap labour under poor conditions. Boycotting a fast-fashion retailer as a remedy to achieve fair conditions for the garment workers may, however, not be the most advantageous. Boycotting a retailer could result in unacceptable issues for the economies of developing countries such as Bangladesh, whose economic development heavily relies on the RMG industry catering to fast-fashion brands. Instead of improving working conditions for the garment workers, the decreased demand would likely lead to them losing their jobs or working underpaid or unpaid, which in turn could push them back or deeper into poverty. Through the interlinkages, the negative consequences would most likely spill over to other sectors of the country’s economy, eventually affecting the country’s state of development. As an alternative, supporting or launching organisations such as the Clean Clothes Campaign may be more fruitful as these organisations are not only independent from governments and their willingness to take action but also consist of actors working within the industry, who constantly and independently monitor the situation on-site and maintain a strong relationship with the people they work with. Their work has been successful in the past without endangering the industry’s workforce.
In the end, fast-fashion is likely to remain a phenomenon for the foreseeable future. To be precise, fast-fashion is occupying a powerful position in the world’s economy by dominating the global apparel market. Due to its characteristics of being trendy, available and affordable, fast-fashion enjoys not only dominance but also widespread acceptance. Considering this, a decline of the fast-fashion industry should not be expected any time soon – even if a few customers decide to stop buying from fast-fashion retailers.
For the growing RMG industry in developing countries, flourishing fast-fashion may be a somewhat positive development. The RMG industry is a way for developing countries to participate in the global market and have a stand amongst other industrial superpowers. It is a way to achieve economic growth without relying on other countries’ assistance while at the same time offering a source of official and formal income to millions of workers. On paper, one could claim that this is an ideal scenario for a developing country like Bangladesh.
Although many RMG workers operate under unsafe working conditions, boycotts are unlikely to remedy this issue. Instead, I would argue that it is an enactment of misguided altruism lacking any form of reflection since these actions may cause those on the other side of the supply chain to lose everything.
Howbeit, this essay was not meant to discourage anyone from taking action, and people should continue to fight against the poor treatment of other humans, though, perhaps those altruistic tendencies should be utilised more thoughtfully. The best way to ensure this may actually be to consult those concerned and on-site, like specialised NGOs or labour unions, because in the end, who knows better about the situation of the garment workers than those who are living what others are only arguing about?