OP: When Will We Draw the Line?
Written by Aurora Hinz, Edited by Willa Tsokanis and Julia Valencikova
Time and time again, we see large companies doing things that are ethically and morally corrupt. As a society, we decide when and where to draw the line - like when to take action against these injustices or boycott. A great example of this is the backlash that BP Oil received after their major pipeline burst in the Gulf of Mexico. We were fast to fight and to boycott this company because of how tangible that instance of environmental devastation was, but what are society's limits to fast fashion? After all, fashion ranks right behind crude oil on the scale of the world's most polluting industries accounting for 10% of all carbon emissions. Why does it take frustration over a direct, personal impact to boycott a brand that uses human trafficking and slavery to produce its products? Why are things like controversial sweatshirts the final straw - does this tell companies that consumers are okay with racism, abuse, and exploitation when they don't have to stare it in the face?
Recently, a graffiti artist from Los Angeles, Jason “Revok” Williams, sent H&M a cease and desist letter, accusing them of using his artwork to advertise their clothing without his knowledge or permission According to Julie Zerbo of Women's Wear Daily, "He had, according to H&M’s lawsuit, committed ‘illegal acts in connection with the graffiti, including criminal trespass and vandalism to New York City property,’ and as a result, lacked grounds to claim copyright protection.". This controversy resulted in the second large wave of boycotts for the brand in 2018, after the previous outrage over the brand’s “coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt.
Graffiti artists all over instagram called for the boycott of H&M over the alleged copyright infringement, similar to how many were calling for H&M boycotts over their inappropriate sweatshirt ad. Apparently, somehow everyone managed to overlook the rest of the company’s harmful practices up until that point. H&M is frequently accused of stealing intellectual property from high-fashion and even indie designers. These accusations hardly begin or end with graffiti. It’s also not like these accusations are hidden - publications like The Fashion Law and Women’s Wear Daily often report on cases of infringement by fashion brands.
This all boils down to why being a conscious and educated consumer is SO important. If you wouldn’t support a company who exploits women and children to produce clothing in the United States, why would you support companies who are doing the same - just overseas? Do those lives not matter as much as yours or mine? Companies like H&M do not conceal their harmful practices. Their extensive waste, discrimination, exploitation are not secrets. They have been reported on time and time again. If more consumers knew what these fast fashion brands were doing and what they were capable of destructing, I do not think they would continue to turn a blind eye for their own convenience.
As a society we must come to an agreement - that no-one deserves to experience being treated inhumanely, or face a life of exploitation just so we can continue to wear plastic t-shirts that cost $9.99. Forcing that life upon others by creating a reliance on these industries is a problem that needs to be addressed by changing what we think is acceptable. It’s no secret that being complacent during these times of oppression makes you part of the problem.
Especially when it comes to environmental devastation and carelessness, the effects of fast fashion can be felt all over and contribute greatly to climate change. Stay educated, stay curious, and stay critical of the mainstream because we cannot continue business as usual and we must come together to stand up for people who are voiceless. Standing up against companies by putting your dollar to use somewhere else sends an extremely powerful message - that we do not agree with the use of slavery, that we do not want to continue to harm our planet, and that we care about our fellow human beings.