Why Fast Fashion is a Feminist Issue - Good On You
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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!


Rated: Good
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.

Passion Lilie

Rated: Great
woman wearing white passion lilie top and striped grey pants

Passion Lilie creates affordable, ethical fashion for both women and men. The label is a Fair Trade Federation member, and follows fair trade principles by providing dignified employment to artisans in India, a high risk country for labor abuse.

Passion Lilie also cares about the planet, using a proportion of eco-friendly organic cotton and plant-based dyes in its products, as well as air-drying its fabric during the manufacturing process.

See the rating.

Shop Passion Lilie @ Made Trade.

Left Edit

Rated: Great
woman wearing white and pink floral left edit shirt

Left Edit is based on an identified need for more fashion-forward garments that are equally as sustainable as they are stylish and affordable.

The brand is committed to using responsible factories that pay legal wages, ensure workplace safety, and prohibit unlawful labor and discrimination. Their design studio and production sewing spaces are located in Los Angeles. Not only are these studios women-led, they also focus on partnering with brands working to reduce waste in the industry, and hold ethics at the core of their business.

See the rating.

Shop Left Edit @ Made Trade.


Rated: Good
woman holding black sustainable vegan svala purse

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.

Shop Svala @ Immaculate Vegan.

People Tree

Rated: Great
woman wearing green people tree dress

UK fashion brand People Tree has been an entirely Fair Trade business for over 25 years, working with mostly female producers around the world. The brand empowers women by giving them control over how they work, as well as how proceeds are used to benefit their communities.

Over the past 10 years, People Tree has partnered with Agrocel to grow organic cotton. At Agrocel, women are paid the same as men and given paid maternity leave. “Farmers are paid a premium for organic and Fair Trade cotton…[which] support a savings scheme for female farmers that trains women in financial literacy, helping them save and plan for the future.”

See the rating.

Shop People Tree @ thegreenlabels.

Shop People Tree.


Rated: Great
woman wearing mayamiko colourful top

Mayamiko produces clothing, homewares, and accessories that are made ethically by women in Malawi. Their aesthetic fuses contemporary design with traditional African techniques. All of their prints are sourced by a local cooperative of women traders.

This brand is a leading advocate for better labor rights and has created the Mayamiko Trust, a charity which works in the community to train and empower disadvantaged women. One of the charity’s projects, the Mayamiko Lab, was designed to provide skills training, education, nutrition, sanitation, and promote fairer trade practices.

See the rating.

Shop Mayamiko.

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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