group of women smiling at the camera
06 Mar
group of women smiling at the camera

Why Fast Fashion Is a Feminist Issue

International Women’s Day this year calls for people around the world to spread the important message that “an equal world is an enabled world”. The #EachforEqual campaign highlights that everyone can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations, and celebrate women’s achievements.

By now, most of us know that fast fashion is a feminist issue. In garment factories across South Asia and India, millions of women work long hours for minimal wages, in uncomfortable and often dangerous conditions, making “fast fashion” clothing for people in developed nations to wear. So, what are the facts? And which brands should we support in the fight for equality?

Worked to death

According to campaign Labour Behind The Label, approximately 80% of garment workers are women aged 18-35. Many have children and families to provide for and are the main income earners. In Bangladesh, this main income equates to around 5,000 takas ($97) per month.

Labour Behind the Label’s report into garment factory working conditions in Cambodia found that poor ventilation and heat, lack of access to water, overwork, and chemical exposure in the factories lead to frequent fainting and malnutrition among workers.

Then there’s the real and present threat of death, as shown by devastating disasters like the 2013 garment factory fires in Pakistan and the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh. 80% of the 1,129 people killed when the factory crumbled were women, along with a number of children.

Rana Plaza was a shocking wake-up call for the fashion industry. It put a glaring spotlight on unethical and dangerous third world labour practices. Since then, many clothing brands have attempted to better control and influence their supply chain. However, there are still dozens of Australian labels (and international brands) that don’t know or don’t care who makes their product and under what conditions.

Be empowered

How can we help Bangladeshi women earning 25 cents an hour? You can begin simply by no longer buying fashion brands known to exploit third world labour, for example by failing to pay a living wage. Consumer resources like the Good On You app rate thousands of brands on their manufacturing transparency and labour practices so shoppers have a better understanding of who made their clothes.

It’s a fair assumption that the cheaper the clothing, the higher the chance it was made by an exploited woman. But bear in mind upscale brands have shady manufacturing trails, too.

Brands for and by women

If you’re looking to take your conscious consumerism a step further, there are a plethora of brands that actively support and empower female workers. It’s also worth mentioning that all of the brands below make beautiful clothing and accessories that rival any high street chain!

Seek Collective

Rated: Good

Seek Collective is a US brand of thoughtfully made items with a dedication to transparency, authenticity, craft, and sustainability. Seek is focused on establishing connections between art, product, consumers, process, and makers. Its items are made in India through partnerships with like-minded communities and people.

Seek is a woman owned business and while its artisans include both women and men, it is proud that the final stitching is done with a women-owned studio in Bangalore. Read some inspiring stories from women on the brand’s blog.

See the rating.

Shop Seek Collective.

The R Collective

Rated: Great

The R Collective’s womenswear collections are made by reusing rescued excess materials from leading luxury brands and reputable manufacturers. It is a standout brand for labour rights even amongst ethical brands, as it ensures payment of a living wage across its entire supply chain.

Scoring ‘Great’ for workers, you can be assured that supporting this brand prioritises the health, safety, and happiness of the overwhelmingly female garment workers behind the scenes.

See the rating.

Shop The R Collective.

Shop The R Collective @ ourCommonplace.

Conscious Step

Rated: Good

Conscious Step creates premium fair trade, organic, vegan socks and clothes which support great charities. The US brand is committed to lasting social and environmental change and every step it take in its production process supports farms and factories with fair wages, safe facilities, and sustainable materials.

From socks that stop violence against women, to socks that promote breast cancer prevention, Conscious Step is one of those ethical brands that empower women every step of the way.

See the rating.

Shop Conscious Step.


Rated: Good

Birdsong is a boutique label producing gorgeous womenswear. Its clothes are handmade in London by knitters and seamstresses earning above the London living wage. The business is built on a philosophy of fairness and authenticity, promising customers “no sweatshop, no photoshop”. Birdsong’s products are inclusively sized from 2XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Birdsong.


Rated: Good

Svala creates luxury designer vegan handbags, purses, bags, and totes. Each bag is handcrafted sustainably and ethically in LA with high-quality, premium vegan leather PU, cork, and Piñatex.

Svala works with factories which ensure that the workers are paid a fair wage and have comfortable working conditions.

See the rating.

Shop Svala.


Rated: Great
woman wearing tonle white sustainable jumper

tonlé provides environmentally-friendly women’s clothing with a zero-waste design process. To do so, the brand uses remnant fabrics from large manufacturers as well as recycled threads and reclaimed wood from local suppliers for its trim and accessories.

tonlé partners with a weaving group in Cambodia and ensures the weavers earn fair wages and work in a community-centric environment that supports their specific needs and talents.

See the rating.

Shop tonlé.

Discover more brands empowering women.


Editor's note

This article was originally published in January 2016 and was updated in March 2020. Feature image via Unsplash, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet and animals. Use our Directory to search more than 2,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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