The ugly face of our ASOS obsession

Zofia Zwieglinska looks behind the scenes of the biggest online fashion retailers

Zofia Zwieglinska
13th March 2017

Mass clothing production in fashion has been a problem for the industry ever since massive online stores like Asos and Missguided grabbed our hearts and purses with their enormous clothing range, next day delivery and relatively low prices. However, these websites may actually be hurting the industry and the wider ethical circle of fashion clothing production.

While it may be useful to have your fashion needs met (I mean, hasn’t everyone really dreamt of getting your wish-list items delivered the next day), it is definitely an ethically questionable practice. These online superstores target those on a smaller budget, who still want to keep up with the latest trends and not spend an extortionate amount. Ideally… students. Our budget’s are very small, and rather than thinking about where our clothing comes from, we prefer to have the next trendiest item or that latest pair of Asos dungarees. Although on a general ethical fashion scale, we don’t wear furs and we know that mohair is not obtained in an ethical manner, we put less thought into everyday items that we buy in bulk amount from shops that shouldn’t keep up their production within normal paying costs.

“These online superstores target those on a smaller budget, who still want to keep up with the latest trends and not spend an extortionate amount”

Although Asos can be fun, it lacks clarity as to where the clothing comes from and how the producers, imports and the delivery and store stockrooms workers are treated. Most big fashion brands with designers who consider themselves ethically active raise the prices of their products so that they can pay their workers (who are usually working in textile production outside the UK) better wages. They also make sure that their fabric production does not affect the environment in a negative manner, such as through the washing out of clothes in local rivers. Since the majority of products on these websites are under fifty pounds, it begs the question if it is actually possible to produce a reasonably good quality item of clothing for that amount, with consideration for the workers in the clothing production areas and in their stock and delivery areas.

Recently, Asos has come under fire for its treatment of workers in a report on worker conditions published by Buzzfeed News. The report said that workers had not been allowed toilet breaks and were thoroughly searched in case they had stolen items from the store. It also appears that strict deadlines and time targets leave the workers feel stressed and unable to work productively, with some staff reporting panic attacks when unable to complete their tasks within the time limit.

So although your items may look wonderful and make you the envy of the fashionable crowd at uni, maybe it might be worthwhile considering if the cheap fashion you are buying may actually be hurting the workers of the company, who could be exploited and under pressure because of your own trigger shopping habits. Keeping your shopping habits under control could also save you a lot of money and save the questionable nature of shopping on sites that are not transparent of their ethical policy.

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