A safe purchase?

(Graphic by Steph Truong)

I have a love/hate relationship with Forever 21. A couple of years ago, I decided to stop shopping there for numerous reasons.

I found that when Forever 21 penetrated the Canadian market, their quality took a nosedive. I feel like if I buy anything today, the lifespan will only be around six months to a year, which isn’t worth the $20 I could spend elsewhere.

Forever 21 has also been openly criticized numerous times for using sweatshop labour within the U.S. In an article in Bloomberg’s Business Week, an L.A. factory worker admitted that she was paid 12 cents to sew vests that sell for $13.80 a pop.

In order for her to make minimum wage (which is $8/hour in the U.S.), she would have to make 67. In an eight-hour workday, that would mean one person is making over 500 vests.

However, I think it is time to reconsider the zone of tolerance we have for big fashion empires.

According to Generation Green, Forever 21 is one of the 200 plus retailers that have legal agreements with the Centre for Environmental Health which set a limit that “no more than trace amounts of lead (300 parts per million) [be found] in most purse materials”.

Earlier this year, Generation Green purchased 30 purses and wallets from Forever 21 – and found that 10 of them had high levels of lead in them, making them one of the worst offenders. Not only that, but they have continued to sell at least two of these lead-tainted items after being notified that they were contaminated. I think Forever 21 has taught us an important lesson about fast fashion: There are consequences to picking the cheapest option.

I now have a beautiful purse that I can’t use because it has been found that lead can remain in the female body and has been linked to numerous health issues such as infertility, heart attacks and strokes.

I don’t think that I’m being hypocritical to admit that because I am a student, I have to shop like one. So if I want to get a new outfit, it’s smarter for me to go cheaper.

This really makes me wonder if being a broke student is really a good enough excuse, when we could be exposing ourselves to toxic chemicals and harming our bodies  without even knowing it.

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