by Anika Goyal (’23)
The fast fashion industry is based on the idea that as certain styles become less popular and new ones become more popular, stores immediately replace old styles with new ones. This ends up leaving a large chemical and waste footprint on our Earth. It also means clothes have to be produced faster, which adversely affects those working in sweatshops. Forever 21 happens to use child labor to support the fast fashion industry. The low cost of Forever 21 clothing made the company thrive over the years. However, the clothing company recently filed for bankruptcy, closing 200 stores.
According to Business Insider, a Los Angeles factory worker for Forever 21 is paid 12 cents per a vest that areis then retailed for $13.80. She ends up being paid 24 cents an hour, because she can only make around 2 vests per an hour. She would have to make 67 vests in one hour to reach the $8 minimum wage. Teenagers that buy clothing from Forever 21 don’t realize who is making these clothes and where these products comes from. The International Labor Rights Forum called Forever 21 out for not making the commitment to stop buying cotton from Uzbekistan factories where child labor is extremely prevalent. There are almost 200 million child laborers around the world (The Child Labor Coaliton). These children aren’t given a proper education, adequate nutrition, and basic human rights. The working conditions for these children are inhumane. They work from 6 am to 7 pm and get paid around 20 cents daily. The majority of child laborers work in the Asian Pacific or Africa. These children work on farms that produce cotton, clothing, coffee, tobacco, sugar cane, bricks, carpets, textiles, cocoa, and many other products. However, once young children are involved in child labor, they are then forced into the sex trade. Child laborers have almost no freedom and work under a common threat of violence. Debt is inherited from their parents, and due to their extremely low wages, the debt can almost never be paid. It is almost impossible to pay off debt. The result of this is a vicious cycle of oppression that is impossible to escape. The reason why child labor continues is the lack of protection and failure of government to enforce laws requiring children to be in school. In 2015, the Sustainable Development proposal was created, calling to eliminate child labor and forced labor by 2025. Countries were called to eradicate human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and all forms of violence. So far, the amount of child labor has been reduced, but it is not completely eliminated. This is because companies buy clothing and materials from garment factories that use child labor. In order for the garment industry to thrive, they need companies to buy their clothing. In order for them to produce clothing for cheap, they need child laborers. This results in an endless cycle that has been going on for centuries. As people begin educating themselves and others about the situation, companies, such as Forever 21, are breaking their relationships with sweatshops and garment factories that use child laborers.
Many of the stores we buy from have behind the scenes contracts with garment factories that use child labor. By buying clothing from stores with these contracts, we are supporting child labor. As long as companies like Forever 21 are in business, child labor will continue to flourish. In order to do this we have to ensure we stop supporting clothing companies that produce their products using child labor. Not only clothing stores such as Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters use child labor, ut stores such as Apple, Nestle, and more contribute to the issue. We don’t realize that most of our everyday products are produced using child labor. This immoral way of mass production when there is a high demand for a certain product is ruining millions of children’s lives. All of the children involved in this industry aren’t given adequate rights and aren’t given the ability to have a successful future. In order to give them the opportunity they deserve, we have to end child labor all together.