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The Cruelty of Crochet in Fast Fashion

In recent years there has been a light shone on the horrors of fast fashion. Of course, there is the awful toll fast fashion takes on the environment, but the human cost of fast fashion is astronomical.  

In order to sell clothes at such a low price, sacrifices have to be made and these sacrifices are at the cost of their exploited workers. Fast Fashion sweatshop workers work around the clock - 14-16 hours a day, 7 days a week. They are subjected to hazardous conditions like factories with ventilation issues and physical abuse. Unfortunately, the majority of these workers are women and children. They are seen as being easier to manipulate, with children being seen as nimbler and therefore more useful. Furthermore, these workers are either not paid at all or given meager salaries, with 2% of factory workers globally being paid a living wage, which makes these factory workers slave labourers.  

This exploitation is horrific regardless of the brand who partakes in this exploitation or the type of garment made, but fast fashion companies who sell crocheted items are, in particular, causing serious harm to the people they exploit. This is because crochet cannot be replicated by a machine and is a very long and intensive art form requiring meticulous attention to detail. You would think then, the garment workers would be paid more, and further compensated for the extra time taken on these items. Crochet tops on Pretty Little Thing goes for £15 (£3.50 in the sale), and Missguided dresses being sold for £11.40 may sound like a great deal for the consumer. But when you take into account, the making, packing and shipping costs of the garment, the ethics of such clothing come under rightful scrutiny.  

While I would argue the use of slave labour to make these crocheted items is the most dangerous and damaging part of crochet as part of fast fashion, there are other issues worth raising. For example, the low prices of crochet on the high street devalues the art form and leaves small, independent crochet businesses who pay an ethical amount for their clothing lose out on sales. This, coupled with companies like Shein stealing the crochet designs of independent artists and selling them for a fraction of the price, crochet in fast fashion has the potential to degrade the art form as it currently stands. This has the power to devalue crochet and desensitize consumers to the time and effort needed to create just one piece of crochet, only making the problem worse over time.  

As individuals, it may seem impossible to stop the destructive steam train of fast fashion, but there are ways we can help lessen the strain of crocheted garments in circulation. Firstly, making your own crochet items is arguably the best way to keep the artform alive and thriving without harmful capitalist intervention. If this isn’t an option for you, your next best bet is to not buy crochet items from fast fashion retailers (or any items for that matter) and instead buy from independent crochet businesses. This will of course be more expensive, and as such if you don’t have the funds to support small businesses in a financial way, I would suggest supporting them through other means like sharing their work on social media or recommending their stores to other people.  

Sources:  

https://www.varsity.co.uk/fashion/21984

Iona Hancock

Aberdeen '22

PGDE Primary 21/22 @ Aberdeen 1st Class Honours in Politics and IR @ Aberdeen
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