The Uncomfortable Reality of Fast Fashion Labor

Brand responsibility is the newest trend, and it isn’t going anywhere.

That’s just a fact, and it doesn’t end with environmental justice: the Spring 2021 Vogue Business Index found that consumers are just as concerned with a brand’s social impact as with its environmental impact. 

At the end of the day, being an ethical consumer means being a deliberate consumer, and that means considering everything from the sourcing of raw materials to the labor practices of the brand. 

It means understanding the effects of fast fashion and how it affects fashion labor workers around the globe. 

It sounds daunting, I know. That’s why we’re here to walk you through how to shop sustainable clothing and be a more conscious consumer!

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is all about trends. Tie-front tops, mom jeans, high tops–those short-lived, wildly popular statement pieces that everyone needs to have and never wear next season.  

These clothes are generally cheaply made and cheaply priced, sourced overseas, and are rampant with unfair fashion labor practices that lead to that unbelievably good deal.

The Scary Truth of Fast Fashion Labor Practices

The uncomfortable truth is that there is usually little accountability and transparency where fast fashion labor practices are concerned.

There are consequences to that $5 price tag. About 85% of fast fashion labor workers are paid a meager 2-6 cents per piece, despite working an overwhelming 60-70 hours per week. Those long hours are more often than not spent in unsafe working conditions that lead to both short- and long-term health detriments.

Some of the largest garment exporters in the world, China, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, are among the worst offenders. 

And if current trends continue, conditions for fashion labor workers aren’t going to improve any time soon.


So… What Can We Do?

As the consumer, you and I have more power than we might think. In her TEDx talk on labor in the fashion and clothing industry, Trisha Striker outlines three ways that we can approach the overwhelming task of addressing fast fashion labor injustices: shopping less, shopping certified, and shopping smart.

Shop Fair Trade Certified


Fairtrade International is the largest sustainability label in the world, with over 25 branches and organizations that bolster brands that provide living wages, proper working conditions, and protect the rights of their workers. 

For our purposes here, I recommend checking out their certified Fairtrade textile products. There’s more information about how Fairtrade is working to protect fashion industry workers from the moment of harvest until the last stitch is threaded. 

Keep an eye out for the Fair Trade Certified™ label on any potential buys. By uniquely shopping “Fairtrade” brands, which we can be confident in and comforted by the knowledge that the product we’re purchasing was sustainably sourced. 

Shop Smart


Do a little research on the brands you want to buy from! This is a little time-consuming, but extremely effective. Sometimes it’s easy to tell: those online fast fashion retailers with flash sales and low prices too good to believe? Probably not the most ethical choice.

Who is transparent with their labor practices? Who pays their employees a living wage? Where does their manufacturing take place, and from where do they purchase their raw materials?

It isn’t easy to know everything about overseas manufacturers who aren’t held to the same standards and guidelines as those in the U.S. And not every country has a Fairtrade branch to help us make conscious decisions. 

But we should, at least, be able to find the answers to these simple questions. And that’s a great place to start!


Shop Less


This is the easiest way–but also the hardest! We get Instagram ad after Instagram ad with the cutest fall sweaters and airy summer tops. But do we really need them?


My fellow shopaholics can try these tricks to keep your eye off the online sales:

  • Learn to repair clothes so you don’t need to replace them after a small tear. 
  • Unsubscribe from all of those online retail mailing lists! See no ads, shop no ads.
  • Shop to last, not to fit into trends. High quality often means higher costs, but it also equates to great “fashion mileage” that’ll last for years to come.


    Notice that this does not mean recycling our current clothes or thrifting! It means literally buying less. It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see your closet size dwindle down. I speak from experience!

    Protecting the Planet and Protecting Each Other

    To truly nurture and support our planet, we need to nurture and support each other. That’s why it’s important to understand how fast fashion harms the planet and the fashion labor workers in the industry.

    As a lifestyle brand, Nature is Beautiful promotes healthy living and works solely with sustainable suppliers to create eco-friendly products that everyone can be confident in–and feel confident in! Take a look at our sustainable collection and see for yourself.

    Gabrielle Rose

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