Attitudes of young people towards fast fashion regarding human rights issues

1.0 Introduction

The fashion industry is one of the most dynamic areas of human and economic development in the world transcending a wide array of human dimensions. The spread of knowledge on fashion is escalated primarily by the rapidly expanding technological applications. The modern technological consumption revolves largely around the best and most suitable fashion. Fashion as Bhardwaj and Ann (168) observes, is our ‘chosen skin’ which defines our outward look, social statuses and professional and ethical standing. The fashion industry is propelled mostly by the integrating societies brought together by the technology. Fast fashion is a key concept which has been used widely in the fashion industry over the last few decades. The concept has become an important concern to international fashion companies today as each competes to outdo the rest in the market.

Globalization has impacted immensely by changing the global fashion industry and setting the pace for development of fast fashion. Bhardwaj and Ann (168) defines fast fashion to refer to a strategy where people in business adjusts their businesses to acquire and distribute the latest fashion in the market. They also struggle to keep the fashion trends in their stores for just a short while since changes in fashion trends are often irreversible. The fast fashion context is characterized primarily by shortening the timelines for supply chains and increasing the choice of consumers through constant replenishment of the fashion merchandise (Tokatli 25). The consumers of fashion keep demanding for the latest products in the markets posing a challenge to the companies regarding their ability to avail the right products to their clients at the right time. For these reasons, the fashion industry is also described as a fast mover industry where sales are trendy and timely rather than considering ethics and human rights. This research seeks to investigate the attitude of young people towards fashion and the impacts of various human rights issues controlling the industry.

1.1 Background of research

Left unregulated, the fashion industry would be uncontrollable and lead to a gross violation of human rights. Tracing the industry to the mid-1990s, the fashion industry has grown several folds since then. By around the 2000s, the fashion industry had extended to the entire world owing to the liberalization of the international markets for foreign trade (Cachon, and Robert 780). Following these expansions, several sweatshop scandals have emerged which have drawn public attention to the fashion industry regulations, promoting the governments and human rights commissioners to enact control mechanisms to the industry. The major apparel companies such as NIKE have been on the forefront to adopt the CSR policies on proper codes of conduct. The main focus of these concerns is to ensure that there exists sustainable growth of the industry through ethical sourcing of the fashion products all over the world. Since, then, other popular brands such as FUBU have been forced to follow suit as well as other fashion outlets around the globe. Today, some fashion retailers including H&M as well as ASOS have developed policies which are specific to addressing issues relating to human rights observations (Cachon, and Robert 780).

Unlike the older generation, the younger generation is the fondest with fashion and fashion change. They are the power which drives the fast fashion industry. A lot of young people want to keep track with the changes in the fashion industry as much as they can. Moreover, the population of the young consumers in the fashion world is the largest and has kept on increasing over time (Bruce, and Lucy 336). This calls for a constant and seemingly endless adjustment on the part of the fashion companies to keep meeting the rising demands. These increasing demands put the fashion industry on the run to meet the rising demands of the increasing population of the young people. Tightening regulations finds many young people on the wrong side of fashion. Research has focused majorly on young people’s response to fast fashion regarding consumption. For instance, Bruce, and Lucy (329-344) investigated how young people respond to fashion in the market. Chan, Felix TS, and Hing (1195-1207) on the other hand looked at the purchasing trends of fashion among the younger generation. Other researches such as Barnes, and Gaynor (760-772) have also addressed the attitudes of young people towards new fashion trends and how they respond to fashion. The study showed that many young people would desert a given fashion brand if they feel that human rights are violated by the producers of the brand. For instance, Barnes, and Gaynor (766) found out that young persons’ view human rights controls on fashion as an inhibitor of growth in the fashion world.

1.1 Objectives

1.1.1 Main objective

To find out the attitude of young people towards fast fashion and human rights issues surrounding it

1.1.2 Specific objectives

  1. To find out if young people know about the human rights violation in fast fashion industry
  2. To investigate the purchase response of young people towards brands which violate human rights

3.0 Study Methodology

This study utilized the qualitative methods to collect, analyze and present the data. Data was collected through questionnaire surveys with 30 young people selected conveniently. The young people surveyed were drawn from the streets of New York and their consent sought first before engaging them in the research. The young people were chosen in the study because they are the most attracted to fashion compared to any other cohort. The study considered only young people aged between 15 and 24 years old. According to Cachon, and Robert (780), the people in this age group are likely to be more receptive to fashion. Cachon and Robert (780) reasons that the youths in this cohort are more concerned about their looks and outward appearances. They are more concerned about how people view them. Moreover, they have very little responsibilities, if none and thus a lot of the money they get can be used willingly in purchasing new clothes and fashion trends in the market. When one was approached, and they declined to be engaged, another person was approached and required to fill the short questionnaire.

3.1 Questionnaires

The Structured, as well as unstructured questionnaires, were used to collect the opinion data from the sample population. The Unstructured questionnaires were then used to conduct interviews on the perception of the youths on various aspects of the human rights issues concerning the fashion industry. Part one of the questionnaires comprised of closed-ended questionnaires which collected data with definite responses. The second section was unstructured and was used to conduct the interviews regarding the perceptions of the participants on various aspects of human rights issues in the fashion industry

3.2 Data analysis

The data was analyzed qualitatively using Excel software. Different types of graphs were used to present the views and opinions provided by the participants. Descriptive analysis was used to illustrate the findings generated

4.0 Results

The gender classification of the participants was as follows: 60% of the participants were female, and 40% were male youths aged between 15 and 24 years. Knowledge of the circumstances under which the clothes were produced among the youths surveyed was low. The majority of the participants (36.7%) said they not aware of the circumstances under which their clothes were produced with only 3.3% of them responding that they are aware of such conditions.  33.3% didn’t know if they knew or not how their clothes were produced or under what conditions they were produced. Three human rights issues in the fast fashion industry were surveyed: Poor working conditions, low salary and child labor. Regarding their human rights issues, 50% of the participants responded that they were most concerned with the issues of low remuneration in the industry. Child labor was a concern to 39% while poor working conditions for the employees in the industry was a concern to only 33% of the participants. Regarding the human rights issues in the fast fashion industry, the majority responded that they were concerned about the low salary. Figure 1 shows the participants levels of acceptance regarding the improvements that have been achieved in the fast fashion industry due to the standard regulations that have been enacted so far.

The majority of the participants, (56.7%) agreed that remarkable improvements had been realized through the present legislations. There was also noted a general perception that the workers in the fast fashion industry were poorly remunerated (63.3%), forced to work under unsafe environments (53.3%), are not provided with the basic health measures at their workplaces (60%), are overworked (63.3%), face verbal abuses, and threats from their sweatshop employers (46.7%). Table 1 shows the types of human rights abuses in the fast fashion industry and the perception of the participants about their violation.

Figure 1: Participants perceptions on the success of the legislations in addressing the human rights challenges in the fast fashion industry.

Human right issue Participant perception of the level of abuse
Poor remuneration 63.3%
Overworking 63.3%
Not provided with basic health measures at workplaces 60%
Prone to child labor
Working under unsafe environments 53.3%
Face verbal and physical abuses and threats from their sweatshop employers 46.7%
Child labor and forced labor 46.7%
Majority of the labor working without pay 46.7%
False allurement of parents to send their children 46.7%


The majority of the youths, 73.3% felt that it would be unethical to continue shopping for the brands which are linked to human rights violation because of their support human rights and dignity at all workplaces. Those who said they would continue shopping for the same brands despite the violations said that as consumers, they are most concerned with the products and not how they are produced or under what circumstances they were produced.

5.0 Discussion

This study established that majority of the consumers of fast fashion are not concerned about the circumstances under which their clothes are produced. The main concern is the type of fashion design in the market and its trending, esthetics and its performance in the market as opposed to whether or not the sweatshops abused or upheld the human right issues. This finding is typical of all consumers worldwide as described in the consumers’ theories. Consumers rarely look at the backgrounds under which various products are developed, rather, the choice of a product is determined by the brand performance in the market (Bruce, and Lucy 340). However, information about the violation of human rights in the sweatshops is more likely to put off the majority of the consumers who would eventually neglect the brands for alternative ones. These findings reflect those of Barnes, and Gaynor (760-772) concerning the risks of sweatshops losing market if through human rights violation. This would only happen when there is public knowledge that human rights violation are truly witnessed in the sweatshops associated with specific brands. The majority of the young people are more concerned about the human rights issues and want all companies in the fast fashion industry to avoid human rights abuse.

5.0 Conclusion

The fast fashion industry is one of the most dynamic and booming industries in the world today, aided by the improvements in technology applications around the globe. Fast fashion is time-specific, market-oriented and consumer-specific. The owners of sweatshops associated with fast fashion, like all other producers are concerned much about the profits they make thus prone to violating human rights issues in the labor industry such as low pay, child labor, abuse, etc. Despite these, this study has established that many young people, who are also the main consumers of fast fashion are not concerned about the circumstances under which the brands are produced but rather, the reputation of the brand in the market, just like other consumers. Majority feels that violation of human rights in fast fashion is not right and would not purchase products from brands which violate human rights.

6.0 Works Cited

Barnes, Liz, and Gaynor Lea-Greenwood. “Fast fashion in the retail store environment.” International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management 38.10 (2010): 760-772.

Bhardwaj, Vertica, and Ann Fairhurst. “Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry.” The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research 20.1 (2010): 165-173.

Bruce, Margaret, and Lucy Daly. “Buyer behaviour for fast fashion.” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal 10.3 (2006): 329-344.

Cachon, Gérard P., and Robert Swinney. “The value of fast fashion: Quick response, enhanced design, and strategic consumer behavior.” Management Science 57.4 (2011): 778-795.

Chan, Felix TS, and Hing Kai Chan. “An AHP model for selection of suppliers in the fast changing fashion market.” The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology 51.9-12 (2010): 1195-1207.

Tokatli, Nebahat. “Global sourcing: insights from the global clothing industry—the case of Zara, a fast fashion retailer.” Journal of Economic Geography 8.1 (2008): 21-38.