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We’re featuring a guest blog from a blogger, Dr. Surbhi Shrivastava, in New Delhi who provides a glimpse of fast fashion in India! Dr. Surbhi Shrivastava is a dentist-activist currently working  with an NGO based in Delhi, India on Public Health Rights and Accountability. A lover of street shopping, she attempts to bring social justice to the world of fashion and help its people live with dignity.

 

This is a shout-out to the likes of girls like me.

We love clothes, and unabashedly so. We feel a rush when we don a new outfit and make it our own. But what’s even better is that while your clothes are turning heads, what’s running through yours is that “I can’t believe I got this for Rs.150 ($2.30)! That costs lesser than my lunch.”

In Delhi, when Rs.150 and clothes feature in the same sentence, that sentence usually ends in Sarojini Nagar. If you’re a street-stuff buff, then you could probably make that happen even in GK or Khan Market. And they never disappoint. But are cheap, pretty things found exclusively on the streets? Or do retail stores now offer both, pocket-friendly clothes and the brand name? The policy at work here is that of fast fashion.

SN Market

Fast fashion is a breakthrough that rapidly puts designer pieces from the runway at the feet of the middle-class aficionados. One would then wonder how something as coveted as catwalk items became common items. Is it a step towards an egalitarian world or is it just not the big picture?

The banal truth is that the developing world is home to all the manufacturing units of the retailers and employs almost 2.8 million women. This wouldn’t be of concern if it meant employment and a good wage for them. Except that, it is far from it. These women are overworked, ill-treated, insufficiently paid and even abused because there is a mass-production deadline to be met before the next trend makes its appearance. So while we no longer have to pay an arm and a leg to look fashionable, these women still do, and quite literally. We become partners in crime, unaware the entire time.

One must then think that when the clothes are being sold at low prices, the companies must be cruising towards a loss. But the truth is the exact opposite where the owners of these brands are ‘among the top 10 richest people in the world’ and earn in figures that are alien to the common man. It’s a classic case of bourgeois vs. proletarian.

Another feather in the cap of fast fashion is that the rate at which new items are produced is in line with the rate at which consumers discard the old ones. Since there is a new collection before you could blink, a lot of these clothes are worn a bare minimum number of times before they head for the landfills. That’s an ecological concern that gets overlooked because fashion is believed to be trivial and frivolous when the industry is actually the second largest polluter, after oil.

With this bitter truth becoming more blatant, people are taking notice. Activist Livia Firth has been pushing the envelope by devising green outfits and spearheading the #30wears campaign, to endorse responsible fashion. It is important to realise that fashion fuelled by another person’s blood and sweat is no fun at all. This does not translate into boycotting these stores because let’s face it, the reason they sell so many is that we throw away those many and the cycle continues. For the sake of our planet and its people, there needs to be more commitment to the closet.

So then what’s the ask?
The ask is that we enjoy clothes. We make a million memories in them. We fight with our siblings for stealing them. We pass them on to little cousins. We make lehengas out of saris. We marvel at the capris we fit in from eight years ago (only a blessed few). When we have had our fill, we give them to someone less fortunate, only to make new memories in. But we don’t throw them away. Because let’s not forget, we love clothes.

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