A “downtown” used to represent a central market hub. Where all people living in an area could meet, trade goods, and exchange news. How did it become transformed into a modern day shop-a-thon where nothing useful is being traded but slave labor is being sold?
Native Americans had inhabited the Seattle area for at least 4,000 years before the first permanent white settlers arrived. When Arthur A. Denny and his group of travelers, subsequently know as the Denny Party, arrived at Alki Point on November 13, 1851 they established their settlement and renamed the area Seattle, after Chief Sealth. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved November 1, 2007.)
They quickly realized that the Pacific Northwest was full of lush beautiful trees. Logging became Seattle’s first major industry, but by the late 19th century the city had become a commercial and shipbuilding center as a gateway to Alaska.
Downtown Seattle was a booming place of economic growth. Theatres, trading posts, craft shops, merchants, and many more businesses opened up shop in hopes to secure their place in the new downtown. Everything was handmade, hand grown and directly benefited the local economy.
Walking through Downtown Seattle has a very different feel in 2012. You are now labeled a consumer and bombarded with advertisements, not from local shops, but from fashion titans such as Forever 21, H&M, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Macys…and the list continues. Not only are you NOT supporting Seattle’s local industry when shopping at these goliath-clothing chains, you ARE supporting sweatshop labor, capitalism at its worst and our ever-growing “consumer” culture.
Forever 21 is by far the worst clothing company on the planet. Their labor practices mixed with their religious hypocrisy make this beast utterly repulsive.
- Sweatshop Labor- All of Forever 21’s garments are made using sweatshop labor. Not only just in China, where workers are not paid fairly or given humane conditions, but sweatshops in the United States as well. Radar Magazine reported in March 2008 Forever 21’s California workers sued the company for, “unpaid wages, mandatory unpaid overtime, 12-15 hour days, and compulsory weekend shifts.” Forever 21 also has been running sweatshops in California using Mexican immigrant labor in subpar working conditions to provide us all with cheap, disposable clothing. (For more information please watch the documentary, “Made in LA”. This Emmy award-winning feature documentary follows the remarkable story of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from a trendy clothing retailer.)
- Copyright Infringement- The clothing designs you see in Forever 21 are stolen from top-end designers and struggling independent designers. As of August 2011 Forever 21 has been sued for copyright infringement over 40 times! Do Won “Don” Chang, Forever 21’s founder told The Guardian that the company’s policy is simply to trust their vendors not to knock off other people’s designs. This “blind trust” is obviously not working.
- Christian Hypocrisy- Forever 21 was started by two evangelical Christians named Do Won Don Chang and his wife Jin Sook. This couple is accused of pushing a religious agenda and discriminating against employees and workers based on religion. (The Huffington Post, 2011) Have you ever looked at a Forever 21 shopping bag? No? Well you should. Each bag has, “John 3:16” printed on the bottom which in the bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Nothing says faith like cheap labor, skanky clothing and theft.
H&M, Urban Outfitters, brands seen in Nordstrom, Macys and Target all use sweatshop labor to make clothing for the masses. Just check the tag. See where it’s made.
The downtown has been taken over by corporations. Gigantic billboards cover up the sky and smaller local shops are harder to find. The downtown is not used for trading, meeting up, or human interaction, it is a place for consumers to come and spend their money while not thinking of the global consequences.
Unfortunately, Seattle’s downtown is not the place when searching for affordable, local fashion. Just a short 10-minute walk up to Capitol Hill and you will be amazed by the many locally owned boutiques waiting to greet you. Used fashion is the best way to stick it to the system. Instead of buying a new pair of jeans, head on over to Value Village on Capitol Hill and you will find a wide range brands and sizes ready for picking.
Consumption is killing the natural world. Americans produce 220 million tons of garbage each year by buying cheap instead of smart. Value Village is filled with plates, cups, clothing, art and furniture. Instead shoppers go to IKEA or Forever 21 to buy new, cheap items that will eventually break and be thrown away.
Reuse and recycle fashion. Shop smart and remember that where you spend your money is important.