Word on the street is that brands are embracing sustainability. Some are going fur-free, too. Today, it's more common than ever to find round-ups of ethical fashion brands in your favorite publications (including on sites like this one), as fast- to mid-level and luxury labels are attempting to bring more transparency to their pre- and post-production processes. And while that's certainly progress, we may never reach the goal of a quality/quantity equilibrium — at least, not in our lifetime. In fact, by 2030, the industry could reach a standstill — with natural resources becoming so jeopardized that any move towards a more sustainable future will be near impossible.
But after polling some of the world's top ethics and sustainability organizations, there's another sector of the industry that deserves more attention and resources: child labor. While you're reading this, over 218 million children are hard at work — 73 million of those are working in hazardous conditions that "directly endangers their health, safety, and moral development." Crazy, right? Not really, when you take into account that consumers — you and me — contribute to this number with every $20 pair of jeans we buy. And when those jeans are hand-dyed by very tiny hands, that discount actually comes at a much higher cost.
While it's much easier to track the life of clothing once it's already made, retracing its origins is another story. That's why transparency, at every level, is crucial. And though we may never know just how much of the industry's clothing is made by children, here's what information is currently available.