FASHION ETHICS: The Sad Reality of Sweatshops

You've probably heard the news that's been flying around the fashion world the last few weeks. Some former employees have accused Alexander Wang of maintaining sweatshop-like hours and conditions at his New York warehouse. They're claiming that he forced them to work 16-hour days in a windowless room without overtime pay and berated them for complaining. Wang says they worked normal hours in a 4,000-square-foot space with 10-foot windows. It remains to be seen who's telling the truth.

This bums me out not just because I've long been a fan of Wang's work, but because it serves as a painful reminder that sweatshop-like conditions are a cruel reality in the fashion world. The only reason this lawsuit has come to light is because Wang manufactures his clothes in the US, which, technically, is commendable (but not if the claims against him are true).

Many, if not most, of the world's fashion brands mass-produce their wares in Asia — typically China — where sweatshops abound. Unfortunately, it's incredibly difficult to expose such manufacturers because, well, China's government isn't exactly helpful with exposing the matter, and the workers are often so desparate for work, they're willing to put up with inhumane conditions.

I gotta admit — I struggle with the ethics of fashion. I love this industry so much, but man ... something needs to change. I try to buy as much vintage as possible in an effort to reuse existing clothes and avoid buying potentially sweatshop-made merchandise, but it's difficult. Sometimes I can't even figure out what's made where, like, say, the shoes I recently bought from Zara. I looked around the site, but it doesn't say where they manufacture the clothes. Which leads me to believe they're probably made in China. And who knows what the inside of that factory looks like.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think Wang is guilty? And how do you feel about buying clothes that were potentially made under inhumane conditions?

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