Alessandra Mezzadri explains how productivity barely covers anything in fast fashion prices.

In April this year, the UK multi-channel retail brand Missguided advertised the sale of a £1 bikini. It was advertised as a one-off special deal to celebrate ten years of empowering women to look and feel good “without breaking the bank”. The publicity stunt backfired spectacularly. While many customers bought the product – the retailer sold 1,000 pieces a day – at the same time, many journalists, and other influencers, including a rising group of ethical fashionistas, condemned the saleas morally reprehensible, socially unacceptable and environmentally destructive. All true, clearly.

Specifically, the sale of a bikini for this kind of price is bad news for garment workers. The economies of scale needed for such a price to incorporate a fair wage would probably require a market tens of times the size of our planet’s population. On the other hand, according to a 2016 McKinsey study, worldwide we already produce 100 billion garments a year, for a human race of only seven billion people.

“The economies of scale needed for such a price to incorporate a fair wage would probably require a market tens of times the size of our planet’s population.”

The “economic bulimia” on which the fast fashion model is currently based escalated in the early 2000. The same study highlights that garment production doubled between 2000 and 2014. Over the same period, the industry also started

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Alessandra Mezzadri

Alessandra is Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at SOAS, London. Her research interests focus on global industrial circuits, labour informality and unfreedom in factories and home working networks; sweatshops, labour …

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