What Amazon Prime Clothes Mean for Ethical Fashion

Submitted by ctate on
Markus Winkler

Amazon is rapidly expanding its apparel footprint.

When the pandemic struck, Amazon was posed to respond well and even gain more market share. Over the last year, Amazon’s profits have skyrocketed. At the same time, traditional apparel brands have struggled, consumer demand dropped dramatically for many companies, and brick and mortar operations became less profitable as lockdowns spread across the world.

Are Amazon Prime clothes the next big name to dominate the fashion industry?

The answer to that question could have big impacts for workers, and for women since they make up 80% of workers in the garment industry. 

It’s important to note that garment workers have borne the brunt of the apparel industry’s financial struggles over the last year. You can read more about that in our guest blog from the Worker Right Consortium. When large companies dominate a sector, whether it’s apparel, food, or electronics, workers at the bottom of the supply chain have often paid the biggest price, while the corporations at the top often sees the biggest benefits.

Amazon has a history of disregarding the planet and workers’ rights, giving very little reason to think expanding its market share in the apparel space would be good for anyone but Jeff Bezos. Slow and ethical fashion is not his game.

  1. Amazon’s apparel impact is rapidly growing! Between 2018 and 2020, Amazon has tripled its private label offerings.
  2. Amazon has about 80 private label apparel and accessory brands.
  3. Consumers are responding by buying more apparel from Amazon (including its own brands and those from third party sellers), and Amazon is dominating, again. In the last year, “70% of apparel shoppers bought clothing or footwear from Amazon.” When compared to key competitors, Amazon also takes the cake. Only 51% of shoppers purchased apparel from Walmart, and 45% from Target. Further, 80% of Prime members state to have purchased clothes or footwear off Amazon.
  4. As of 2020, apparel, footwear, and accessories accounted for 54% of Amazon-brand products.
  5. Workers and consumers are not being protected. Amazon’s chemical management policy does not apply to apparel. While Amazon has made progress in a variety of areas over recent years, Amazon branded clothing could have toxic chemicals in it, jeopardizing the health of both consumers and garment workers.  AND this wouldn’t be the first time that Amazon has risked safety of consumers, last year, CNN reported that there were numerous consumer reviews of multiple of Amazon’s products being dangerous.

Amazon is a dominating force and will stop at nothing to increase its market share. There is evidence that it will undersell competitors to push the competitor out of business (see the case of diapers.com), and Amazon has developed similar products to popular brands, like AllBirds which is a B Corp that makes shoes with more environmentally friendly materials than traditional brands – Amazon copied the design but left out the more sustainable materials, not surprising. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon has used 3rd party sellers’ data to develop its own competing products.

Across industries and despite its enormous profits, Amazon has been reluctant to prioritize workers’ rights, environmental justice, and its climate impact. We need to make sure that we are holding Amazon accountable as it moves further into the apparel sector, where millions of workers and their families could be impacted.

That is why over the next year, Green America will further incorporate Amazon’s apparel supply chain within our Amazon campaign, focusing on Amazon’s chemical management for apparel and garment workers’ rights. Take our Amazon action, which includes a call for the company to protect apparel workers from harmful chemicals, and check out these tips for shopping sustainably online.

Tell Amazon to Respect All Workers & End Toxic Textiles

Always remember to shop local, delve into secondhand, and support sustainable business when you go on your shopping sprees, because ethical fashion is the name of the game. While Amazon Prime clothes may be fast, simple, and cheap, like most things it is too good to be true.

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