By Afshan Khan
The Muslim fashion industry is growing, and is expected to grow even further reaching $327 billion by 2019, according to a study by Dinar Standard. It’s no wonder then, that over the last few years major retailers and brands are actually recognizing our needs and representing us – I mean, we are after all a considerably large, and profitable segment that cannot be overlooked.
Some brands such as H&M have featured a hijabi model, American Eagle has introduced their denim hijab, while others are reaching out to hijabi influencers in order to cash in on the modest fashion bandwagon. Muslim women have already been shopping at these retailers for a while, so it is indeed wonderful to finally be represented. We all get really excited about these campaigns lending its share and we are constantly talking about it on our social media. All the same, I say we should ditch these big “fast fashion” retailers.
“But why?,” you may ask.
Well, firstly, fast fashion is like fast food- quickly and inexpensively producing short-lived trends. But this mainstream fashion industry has reached a critical point. Being the second most polluting industry, it is a major contributor to climate change. Over 50% of our clothes are made up of cheap synthetic fibers like polyester that are not biodegradable. They remain on the planet for thousands of years and are not breathable either, which means our bodies can not lose the heat we produce, and we sweat a whole lot more! Each time we put our clothes in the wash, they release microparticles that end up in the ocean, and eventually find their way to our food chain. Not to mention the toxic and carcinogenic dyes that destroy our rivers and are linked to cause cancer. All this affects the health of fashion industry workers, animals, plants, environment and eventually us the consumers as well.
Second, fast fashion means poorly made garments that are designed to last just a few wears; this keeps consumers coming back for more. We don’t feel bad disposing them because they never cost that much to start with. Besides, we have the next fashion trend to follow. Eventually, we end up buying a lot more garments then we actually need, spending a lot more than what we would have in buying perhaps, a well made garment that lasts.
Thirdly and most importantly, fast fashion means cheap labor. Most of our fast fashion clothes are made in developing countries that have no regulations, and often times exploit labor. When a price of a t-shirt is just as much as your latte, you should know someone somewhere is paying the price for it. Prices are kept down artificially at the cost of slave labor. Garment workers are abused,exposed to dangerous working conditions, and made to work long hours without overtime pay. One would think that the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that took the lives of 1,034 workers in 2013, would have been a huge wake-up call to change in the industry, but unfortunately, four years down the line and 2017 was reported to be the deadliest year for workers in Bangladesh. Bangladesh: a majority Muslim country and the second biggest exporter of garment. This should mean something to us.
The big box corporations are rushing to get our attention with their huge budget campaigns.What that tells us is that our collective buying power matters, and that our dollar has the power to make a change. There is a revolution taking place in the mainstream fashion industry, and we should make sure that as Muslims we lead the way to better the lives of our brothers and sisters.
As the modest fashion industry takes off and veiled Muslim women claim their spot in the industry, it is essential that we don’t fall victim to the problems and narrative created by fast fashion. Rather, send a strong signal that modesty not only means the outward expression of our faith, but also the inward morals and values of Islam that accounts for the well-being of others, in us acting as the true guardians of this earth. We won one battle by getting the representation, now lets win the war by setting the industry on the right path.
– Get involved with movements such as fashion revolution to call brands to change
– Educate yourself, and read labels to make informed decisions on your purchasing
– Support brands that producing clothing in a responsible and ethical manner
– Take small steps like mending your clothes, upcycling, or thrifting
All of which will surely add up in the end, and hopefully create a greater impact on the betterment of our world.
Afshan Khan is a former Human Resource specialist and founder of Purple Impression. She is passionate about sustainability, using her experience in HR to develop the skills to foster entrepreneurship and training of women artisans.