|Topshop Halterneck Jumpsuit on left, $115 USD. American Apparel Crepe Crossback Jumpsuit on right, $118 USD.|
Good morning and welcome to Monday! Today I’ve got another Conscious Fashion Swap for you. This one might seem like an easy, obvious one but it’s actually fraught with ethical dilemmas for us fashion lovers and consumers. The choice between two terrible choices is no choice at all? Maybe!
Topshop, as you’re probably aware, is the super-popular British fast fashion that in recent years has been imported into North America. And it’s easy to become obsessed with the brand. Thousands of fashion-forward items are on offer. And while they aren’t as affordable as anything at Forever 21, they are definitely more attainable than the designer pieces they imitate.
But like most fast fashion brands, Topshop has a long history of producing clothing through the use of sweatshops. This is a tragic set of circumstances, but it’s not a new thing. And one of the easy solutions to this ethical problem is to buy clothes from companies that pay their employees a fair wage. However, just because a company pays a fair wage, does not mean that they are angels.
For American Apparel
American Apparel, on the other hand, does not. All of its wardrobe basics and fashion must-haves are produced entirely in the United States through fair labour practices.
However, five years ago one look at their billboards and print ads and you knew something was not quite right with this brand. Or maybe hindsight is 20-20? Either way, while the skeezy founder Dov Charney may have started a company that didn’t take advantage of cheap, abusive labor in some of the world’s poorest countries, he did abuse employees and models in other ways that were just as unethical.
Honestly, I would not even recommend American Apparel on this blog at all if it weren’t for the fact that Dov Charney has been outsed from the company. And while the company struggles with legal battles with its former CEO, it also struggles under the new leadership of Paula Schneider (Yay! #Girlboss) to regain financial footing.
|Photo by Guilhem Vellut. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0.
It’s an ethical quagmire for me. American Apparel and its founder seem to be more interested in exchanging lawsuits than offering reparation for Charney’s abuses. In a perfect world, this would never have happened to any employee of any company. In a more ideal world, reparations would be made to the employees and models who had to endure this one idiot’s crap. However, in the world we live in, there is no mention of what’s being done to reclaim the once-toxic working environment of American Apparel.
Instead, us consumers and fans of sweatshop-free fashion are put into boxes that are so far off the mark and have nothing to do with our realities and our concerns.
When it comes to the clothes, what’s to be said? They are often on trend and sweatshop-free. But now that Dov Charney is gone and many of his sexual harassment cases settled or dismissed, does shopping at American Apparel rather than Topshop mean that I trade one sets of human rights violations for another? What about those cases that haven’t been dealt with?
What do you think? Do you think we, as fashion lovers, should prioritize sweatshop-free over the rights of workers who are paid a fair wage? Do you think it’s all good as long as Dov Charney is nowhere near the brand?
Or are you as concerned as I am that his actions and their consequences have yet to be deal with in a fair and ethical way? Leave your opinion in the comments below! I’d love to read them!