The Hidden Costs of COVID-19 on Garment Workers

We can all agree that 2020 hasn’t been the ideal year... from wildfires to ramped racial injustices to the global spread of COVID-19, humanity and the planet are being put to the test simultaneously and more than ever it is our time to combat it. So many people around the world have been severely impacted by a number of these global crises, but one aspect of the pandemic in particular that we don’t hear enough about is the treatment of garment workers in the fast fashion sector during these trying times. 

Picture Courtesy of Eco Textile News

The term ‘sustainability’ in the fashion industry doesn’t only refer to the use of environmentally-friendly raw materials throughout the clothing’s production process. It also includes securing the safety of employees throughout the supply chain, particularly of garment workers by providing these individuals with “humane working conditions, health care, and fair wages” as stated by Katrin Bielawski in Woodstrk

At no surprise to the masses, fast fashion brands failed to provide these essential workers support when they needed it the most. While brands and retailers had to shut down their factories and stop production (for the majority this meant canceling their orders entirely) garment workers weren’t paid for the work already finished and packaged. 

Picture Courtesy of The Sustainable Fashion Forum

If that’s not maddening enough, when factories did resume production and asked employees to return to work during the pandemic, they did not provide the workers with proper protection including face masks and gloves nor were they kept at a safe distance from one another. How does any of this make sense? Fast fashion brands and retailers don’t seem to care about the most important “asset” in their supply chain, their people! Sure, you can get that cute trendy dress or $5 crop top, but it all comes at the expense of someone else. 

So what can consumers do to demand change?

  1. Ask yourself, “who made my clothes?”. This one question can speak leagues about the quality, care and responsibility of each piece you’re investing in.
  2. E-mail and ask brands to be transparent about their production process. This demand for accountability puts pressure on brands to protect, support and properly pay their workers during this crisis and in the future. 
  3. Donate to non-profit organizations that provide support to garment workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
  4. Be conscious of what you purchase. After all the best way to contribute to a more conscious lifestyle is to wear what you already own, repair or upcycle older pieces or get into the thrifting scene and purchase items that already exist in the market. 

Photo Courtesy of 

At the end of the day, it will take a collective effort to reach the most effective solution for ethical and sustainable responsibility. The best thing you can do is to take small actions in your own life to seek justice for worker exploitation and demand change for the many wrong-doings of the fashion industry. 


 by Olivia Mayorga | October 15, 2020

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