Not really news (see: fur). A lack of compassion has always been present in the fashion industry from wages to working conditions, to the treatment of animals whose skin it uses. Recently many companies have gone one step further in their disregard for human rights from racist campaigns, to offensive comments in interviews. The question that remains is: Why do they get away with it? Sure, for two weeks or two months there may be a boycott but once their offense becomes old news, people are queuing up for their newest pieces. Criticism does not discriminate even though these brands do. From high fashion to fast fashion, companies have been under duress for a lack of consciousness in their approach to fashion and in their public relations. What never ceases to amaze me is the fact that in most cases, a team of people had to come up with, design/shoot/create and OK the idea, and not one of them thought, “Wow, maybe this is racist?”. As guilty as the brand is, brands do not exist without consumers. So why do we turn a blind eye when it comes to this? Is it because the brand is traditional and classic, or because we want to pay less for our clothes. Maybe the problem is entirely different and people are just not aware of what is happening.

At Graded, styles, and brands that are worn by students vary significantly so The Talon interviewed some of them to see what they really know about the companies they shop from.


The Talon: Do you buy your own clothing?

Chiara H (senior): Yes

Mathaus S (senior): It depends

Helen L (senior): Yes

Alicia P  (senior): Yes

Thomas G (junior): Yes


The Talon: What brands do you typically shop at?

HL: In the US Forever 21, Urban Outfitters (although I stopped supporting them).

CH: Zara and Forever 21.

MS: H&M, Adidas, Nike. Sometimes some things more expensive.

AP: In the US usually American Eagle, lucky brand, Gap. In Brasil Farm and Track and Field.

TG: I love Urban Outfitters. I like Gucci. I identify myself with the pieces that they offer.


The Talon: Which one is your favorite?

CH: Zara is the one I typically go for because there is a range of everything but, overall I think my favorite brand is Balenciaga.

HL: Forever21 or Adidas


The Talon: Does the brand’s image matter compared to the clothes?

CH: I think the image of the brand reflects on the clothes. Zara has a variety of clothes and clothes for everyone but at the same time, there is a controversy that there is slavery. If you think about it everything you use comes from somewhere and it is commonly slave work. It has never stopped me from buying from Zara but I do think about it.

MS: Definitely it matters. A few years back an article was released that Zara was using slave workers and now I don’t buy any clothes from them. I don’t agree with that so I don’t buy their products anymore.  

HL: I’ll buy it till I know that something controversial has gone on with the brand like Abercrombie. I’ve stopped buying there.  

AP: I don’t always research because it’s hard to avoid brands that don’t use slave labor so I don’t really pay attention to that.

TG: Yes. Fast fashion. I obviously shop at Zara but I have been cutting down. If it comes out that Gucci is mistreating their animals I will stop buying there.


The Talon: Do you consider any ethical implications before shopping?

CH: I do. I do admit that I use leather. I use animals. I’m from Uruguay and it is very cultural. We use a lot of yarn. But I also think it is important to balance. If I want to buy a leather jacket, I make sure I only have one and not five. It is very hard nowadays to have transparency between the brand the designer and the customer. There is the designing, the making until the point it is on your body. Honestly, the majority of things I wear I don’t know where they came from.

MS: Yeah. But I don’t look up a store before going there.

HL:  I don’t shop at Nike. I’ll try to look into the companies and their policies. Like Abercrombie and Victoria Secret have said some very offensive things. I also look at animal testing but that is mostly cosmetics and I totally don’t support that.

AP: Not really because it is hard to avoid that. In Brasil I shop at Farm because everything is made here.

TG: Forever21 there is a lot of slave work associated with their clothing.


The Talon: Do you know anything about any issues in the fashion industry right now pertaining to human rights?

MS: Since there is a really big demand for designer products there tends to be more replicas and fakes so instead of that money going towards the creators they go towards other factory owners so the money goes to another person.

HL: The usual, like we all know Nike exploits the labor of poor people in Asian countries. Recently I saw the news about Beyonce’s brand. About a women asking for help, but I don’t buy Beyonce. Usually, I’ll stray away from controversial brands.

AP: Issues no. I know brands that have had controversy. Forver21 and H&M. Abercrombie and Pink have had scandals about where products come from. I watched a documentary about fast fashion that talks about that kind of stuff.


The Talon: If I told you that your favorite store has been associated with some violation of human rights, would you still shop there?

CH: No. The brand depends on the customer and money. I think it starts somewhere.

MS: I mean, I would use my judgment to make an assessment. If it is something similar to Zara than I will definitely consider it.

HL: Definitely not.

AP: Depends on how serious it is. And it depends on how much I like the brand.


For the most part, people know exactly where they are buying their clothes from, and everything that comes along with buying from that brand. What they do call for is more transparency from the brands, though the current lack thereof does not impede them from shopping there.


We could all stand to be a bit more conscious in our shopping, and although brands make it hard for us, some companies are trying to help the consumer:


Moda Livre: An app and website that tells you if a brand uses any slavery/sweatshops and any unethical behavior it has shown.

End Slavery Now: Website that shows you companies that do not use slave labor, so you can shop consciously.


Thank you to everyone who helped answer questions!


*some comments have been modified for accuracy and length