Colonialism isn’t a thing of the past, it’s a fashion industry reality

Covid-19 is not just a public health crisis, it’s also a major environmental issue. Scientists have already linked coronavirus, along with a host of other deadly diseases, to human destruction of wildlife and land. While the pandemic has gravely impacted the fashion industry and many others, all of these issues are deeply intertwined. The pervasive exploitation of human labour, land grabs, widespread pollution, drought and more are what got us here.

The fissures in the system seem to get deeper each day, revealing the industry’s already broken bits: big box brands refuse to pay garment workers who already navigate low wages, poor working conditions, hunger, and sickness; small and big businesses are being forced to down shutters; some are filing for bankruptcy while others cling on by cutting hundreds of jobs. Countless lives are being lost while our economy is tanking, taking the fashion industry along with it.

This month fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg announced the closure of 18 of her 19 stores. According to the New York Times, over 60 per cent of the corporate and retail staff in the United States, Britain and France were laid off with creditors complaining about unpaid bills. Reportedly the DVF brand, like many contemporary fashion companies, had been navigating business challenges for some time already but the pandemic pushed the brand over the edge.

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