March is Women’s History Month, and as we reflect on how far we’ve come, we also want to acknowledge the journey that remains ahead. In every industry, women face an uphill battle for equal opportunities, pay, representation, and treatment. The fashion industry is no different. As we considered what to focus on for this post, six fashion industry facts stood out that we feel are important to highlight:
Most garment workers are employed in developing countries with questionable ethics and (often) hazardous working conditions. One of the many repercussions of Fast Fashion is the lack of accountability and ethics throughout the sourcing and production processes. It thrives off of exploiting workers (often working up to 60 hour work weeks) in order to produce mass quantities of clothes quickly and at low cost.
In Ethiopia, women in the garment industry typically only make the equivalent of $26 per month on top of putting in 60 hour weeks in unsafe conditions. This is not only terrible for women’s health and wellbeing, these exploitive practices also function as barriers to women’s advancement, independence, and ability to fully provide for their families.
According to a survey conducted in Britain, one-third of the 2,000 women surveyed viewed clothing they’d only worn once or twice as old. It makes sense that in the face of ever changing trends and easy access to cheap styles, people would feel less inclined to re-wear items when brand new ones always seem to be popping up at super affordable prices. The caveat, of course, is that someone is paying a higher price for those pieces often in the form of their safety/wellbeing and the absence of a living wage.
BoF (The Business of Fashion) conducted a study of 50 major Fashion Brands and found that only 7 (a mere 14%) are run by women. This isn’t due to a lack of quality women candidates, but rather a symptom of an industry that continues to elevate men over women regardless of qualifications or aptitude.
Women only comprise 25% of board members for publicly-traded fashion brands. This is hugely problematic for ensuring their voices and expertise are heard, especially considering women make up the majority of the fashion consumer base. It seems archaic for decisions about women’s fashion to rest largely in the hands of men rather than those for whom the clothes are actually being designed.
BoF did a study of 371 designers during the 2017 Spring Fashion Week and found that only 40% were women. Again, it seems backward for an industry hyper-focused on women customers to rely so heavily on men designers to create clothes for women. This isn’t to say that we don’t believe there are any quality or deserving designers that are men. We absolutely do. However, it makes zero sense to see such underrepresentation in an industry centered around women with no lack of talented or accomplished women candidates.
RESEARCH: We can do a little digging into our favorite brands to find out whether they have good representation of women in leadership and if they follow ethical and sustainable practices.
SUPPORT WOMEN-RUN BRANDS: Our money is one of the most powerful tools we have for holding brands accountable and ensuring we’re moving into an era of fashion that is sustainable, ethical, inclusive, and equitable. By choosing to support sustainable and ethical brands run by women, we send a message that if others want our business, they need to get onboard.
SPREAD THE WORD: Sharing the knowledge we gain is a great way to spread awareness to our networks and communities. The more insight we have and share, the more equipped we are to make informed purchasing decisions.
USE OUR PLATFORMS: For those who are social media wizards, these platforms can be powerful tools for thoughtfully holding brands accountable and encouraging the change we want to see.
We chose to focus on these six facts because we wanted to share a more global perspective of how fashion impacts and relates to women. They also serve as a reminder to us of why we’re committed to ethical and sustainable practices, design, and production at Stellari. While some of these facts land heavier, there is a silver lining because knowledge is power. And, it’s our hope that you find yourself empowered to use this info to educate others and make shopping choices you’re proud of.
We also want to take a moment to thank the women who worked tirelessly to move us forward in all industries and aspects of life, who’ve given us the tools to empower others, and who continue to inspire us through their legacies. May we uplift and pave the way for others the way you did for us.