Alexei Navalny: Putin Critic out of Induced Coma after Poisoning

Alexei Navalny: Putin Critic out of Induced Coma after Poisoning

BUSINESS + POLITICS

Alexei Navalny: Putin Critic out of Induced Coma after Poisoning

oatly boycott blackstone
Emily Murphy

Emily Murphy

30th September 2020

On August 20th news broke that Alexei Navalny, The Russian “anti-corruption” campaigner and longtime Putin critic, became ill on his flight from Siberia. It was not long before allegations of poisoning were banded about, and the future of Russian politics was called into question.

 

Mr Navalny and his team were due to leave Siberia after a successful trip meeting local political candidates and volunteers. Those close to him have said that other than a cup of tea at the airport in Tomsk, Navalny did not consume anything that morning. Prior to boarding the flight, fellow passengers noted that he was in good spirits, laughing and joking with those who recognised him. The flight which was bound for Moscow was forced to make an emergency landing in Omsk after Navalny collapsed in the plane toilet at some time between eight and nine am.

 

Mr Navalny has long been vocal about this lack of trust in the president and his political party, at times calling them “crooks and thieves” and claiming that the system was “sucking the blood out of Russia”. Although Navalny is barred from running for president due to his embezzlement conviction in 2018, charges he vehemently denies, he has long been at the forefront of the anti-establishment campaign. So when his colleagues suggested that something had been “mixed with his tea”, many could be forgiven for thinking that it lay within the bounds of reason.

 

Of course, this is not the first time critics of Vladimir Putin have fallen ill or died under suspicious circumstances. In 2015 Boris Nemtsov was shot four times in the back, in full view of the Kremlin, by an unknown assassin who was never apprehended. Nemtsov, who had at one time publicly supported Putin, later became one of his most prominent critics, organising rallies and protests against him. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, died three weeks after “drinking a cup of tea“ that had been laced with polonium-210. Po-210 is a product of radioactive uranium decay, which causes cells in the body to kill themselves and alters the genetic ability of cells to reproduce. A British enquiry later found that Litvinenko was poisoned by Russian agents Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, who were acting on orders that had “probably been approved by Putin”. It is worth pointing out that not all critics of the Russian president die under suspicious circumstances, but enough well established critics have to foster speculation of Kremlin involvement.

 

On September 2nd, after Navalny was airlifted to Berlin for treatment, the German government stated that a military test found “unequivocal proof of a chemical nerve warfare agent of the Novichok group” in Mr. Navalny’s system. This contradicts what was found by doctors in the state run-hospital in Omsk. The deputy chief of the hospital stated that although unconscious and on a ventilator, Navalny was in fact stable. Neither family nor Navalny’s personal doctor was permitted to see him during his time in Omsk. On September 15th, the Kremlin critic released a photo of himself in hospital, saying that he was able to breathe by himself once again and intended to return to Russia once he had recovered.

 

On September 17th an aide of Navalny announced that traces of the nerve agent used in the poisoning were found on a bottle in his hotel room. This would suggest that he had consumed the agent several hours earlier than previously thought. This has led the European Parliament to call for an international investigation into the poisoning. No such investigation has been launched in Russia.

 

“After Navalny was airlifted to Berlin for treatment, the German government stated that a military test found “unequivocal proof of a chemical nerve warfare agent of the Novichok group” in Mr Navalny’s system.”

 

The Navalny poisoning is no longer a feature in mainstream media outlets, nor is it very fresh in the minds of most. But those who possess an interest in the political and business affairs of other nations are once again asking how will this latest attack on the political opposition affect governance in Russia? What does the future hold for political figures in the country?

 

While technically a democracy, Russia is classified as an “authoritarian” country and even those with no interest in politics can see why… In early January, Putin announced some of the most radical political changes in the past 30 years. These changes could allow him to extend his 20-year reign even after his term ends in 2024. The last person to serve as long as him was Josef Stalin, the famous Russian dictator. Some of the proposed changes suggested for the upcoming referendum include greater government control over judges and security services, future president terms limited to 2 years; while never having possessed a foreign passport or residence permit and having lived in Russia for at least the past 25 years.

 

These changes would ensure that of the small pool of individuals that this could apply to, none would be able to legally remain president long enough to gather the political leverage or power that Putin has accumulated in two decades. While he is constitutionally mandated to step down in 2024, these changes could ensure a politically relevant future for the 67-year-old. Prior to this the only noticeable change made during his reign was increased police violence on protesters, in an attempt to quell any uprising that might occur. So it is almost safe to assume that Russia in the future will look very similar to Russia presently, with Vladimir Putin taking less of a public stance, but running the country from behind the scenes. While we all watch with great interest and speculation the words of Pyotr Stolypin hold strong “in Russia, every 10 years everything changes, and nothing changes in 200 years“.

 

There are continuous updates now from Navalny and his staff, as he grows in strength daily. On September 22nd in a satirical post on his Instagram page, Navalny announced: “The ultimate goal of my canny plan was to die in the Omsk hospital and end up in an Omsk morgue, where they would have determined my cause of death as ‘he lived long enough,/ “But Putin outplayed me. He’s no pushover. In the end, I lay in a coma for 18 days like a fool, but I wasn’t able to get my way. The provocation was thwarted!”

 

Alexei Navalny

 

Navalny’s condition has improved enough that he has been discharged from acute inpatient care, he is however to remain under supervision as the long term effects of his condition are not yet known. In separate posts on his Instagram page, Navalny has thanked the hospital staff who have taken care of him, and he will no doubt keep the world updated on his progress via the social media platform.

 

 

Featured photo by Michał Siergiejevicz

 
 

 

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Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

BUSINESS + POLITICS

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

oatly boycott blackstone
Elizabeth Quinn

Elizabeth Quinn

29th September 2020

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon, the Trump administration and the commercialisation of the housing market. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

 

Oatly is a plant-based milk alternative which has at its core a message of environmentalism. Oatly state that their mission is “to make it easy for people to turn what they eat and drink into personal moments of healthy joy without recklessly taxing the planet’s resources in the process.”  Now Oatly has made headlines for accepting an investment of $200 million from private equity firm Blackstone. This means that Oatly is now 10% owned by Blackstone and receives financial support from them.

 

Blackstone has been criticised for their links to investment in the Hidrovias– a Brazilian infrastructure company that has been accused of contributing to deforestation in the Amazon. Blackstone denies this. Blackstone’s CEO has also been a prominent supporter of Donald Trump. The UN has accused Blackstone of contributing to the global housing crisis through the commodification of housing. In letters from the UN to Blackstone, this financialisation of housing focused on the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the US. Blackstone dispute this claim. However, this means Oatly now earn money from a private equity firm which appears to be at odds with Oatly’s goal as a company wishing to create sustainable change for the good of the environment.

 

This case brings to mind the question of the role businesses should play in our society. Should businesses aim only for-profit maximisation or should businesses also have some social aspect to them? Do they have a responsibility to conduct their actions in a socially conscious way? Those believing the answer to be yes led to the evolution of corporate social responsibility (CSR). One of the most famous economists, Friedman, argued against CSR as he saw it as moving money away from profit maximisation. What Friedman fails to acknowledge here is that being socially responsible and engaging with stakeholders could actually provide for better business and may deliver profits.

 

Being socially responsible has, until now, worked for Oatly. Oatly’s total growth for 2018 was 65%, and a turnover of 1028 million Swedish SEK. This point shows that the sustainable message Oatly gives is one which is resonating through the population. Many people believe in Oatly’s mission and thus bought their product. Oatly’s high turnover gives the impression that Blackstone’s investment is not money which is needed for Oatly to survive, rather it is extra venture capital needed to expand. The argument that if Oatly does not accept these types of investment it will completely fail as a company falls short.

 

“This case brings to mind the question of the role businesses should play in our society. Should businesses aim only for-profit maximisation or do they have a responsibility to conduct their actions in a socially conscious way?

 

Oatly states that they wish to show Blackstone that sustainable investment is the future. At the same time, they have acknowledged that they will have no control over what Blackstone invests in outside of their partnership. Therefore, their idea that they will have an influence on Blackstone’s investments in the future is naïve. Blackstone owns over $538 billion dollars in assets. Oatly is part of a $200 million deal. Blackstone cannot wave a magic wand, invest a fraction of what it is worth and become a sustainable investment company.

 

Rather, becoming sustainable takes work- work which Blackstone does not seem to be willing to do. Oatly needs to judge Blackstone not by their words but by their actions. Oatly states that the decision to engage with Blackstone was an intense thought process. This is very vague. Companies like Oatly have access to toolkits such as human rights impact assessments to gauge the impact their decisions would have adversely on human rights. Whether Oatly has completed this kind of assessment is not clear. If it had, I doubt that it would have come to the conclusion it did. Blackstone now shows on their homepage that they are supporting growth and sustainability. Private equity firms can, on the one hand, state they are supporting environmental goals, while on the other hand directly contribute to the opposite goal.

 

The language of corporate social responsibility has evolved. The UN guiding principles on business and human rights are responsible for this language change. This means that rather than the vague CSR, which is not based on international standards, that companies have guidelines on what they need to do in order to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains. These guidelines should be used in assessing whether there are human rights risks involved in projects. Companies such as Oatly should, in their operations, carry out impact assessments in order to deal with risks which may occur to rights holders.

 

An interesting fact with regards to Oatly is that it is not a publicly-traded company, meaning that the general public cannot own shares in Oatly. The only way for Oatly to be informed by the public that this behaviour is not seen as acceptable is through a boycott, which some have already called for. If the general public own shares in a corporation which they believe need to improve its human rights standards, then this may be an easier way of putting pressure on a company to conform to the human rights standards which the public sees fit.

 

This investment with Blackstone appears to go against what Oatly’s CEO stated in 2019- “If you say you’re ethical you have to back it up”.

 

 

Featured photo by Oatly

 
 

 

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“Women’s Rights are Human Rights” – a Muddy Business in 1995 at Beijing

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights” – a Muddy Business in 1995 at Beijing

 WOMEN

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights” – a Muddy Business in 1995 at Beijing

Hillary Clinton at Beijing 25+ 1995
Cassie Roddy-Mullineaux

Cassie Roddy-Mullineaux

28th September 2020

The Beijing World Conference on Women, took place in September 1995, 25 years ago! Those born after 1990 are probably too young to remember the conference and its significance. But Beijing was a true landmark event. It resulted in more than 30,000 activists, representatives from 189 nations, unanimously adopting the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a vision of equal rights, freedom, and opportunities for women that continues to shape gender equality and women’s movements worldwide (UN Women).

 

This was the event at which Hillary Clinton made the famous declaration, “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security recently hosted an online conversation with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Madeleine Albright where both women recalled their experience of attending the event, discussed the legacy of the Beijing Platform for advancing women’s rights globally, and identified areas where we still need to see significant progress. Their conversation merits watching in full. This article focuses on a few key moments from their discussion, which serve to symbolise the struggle women face – then and now – in working towards full equality.

 

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Remarks to the Fourth Women’s Conference in Beijing, China, 1995.

In marked contrast to how it is typically portrayed, and despite Hillary’s pink suit, Beijing in 1995 was not always an easy or glamorous experience. Many people wanted to shut down the message of women’s rights are human rights and the practices that obstruct women from claiming those rights. Clinton recalled how during her speech, when she was criticising certain practices towards women (some of which applied to the Chinese regime), the sound was cut off (they had initially been piping it out the conference hall into a big convention centre). Ironically, the sound was suddenly diverted into a department store in Beijing – a site where a lot of women would have been shopping. In a recent article for the Atlantic, Clinton wonders what subversive person managed to achieve that turn of events.

 

Furthermore, many people might not know there was actually a separate conference by and for NGOs in Huairou, a small town 30 miles outside Beijing, at which Clinton delivered a version of her speech. Both women recollected how this NGO conference was originally intended to be held in the centre of Beijing; however, Chinese officials decided to move it to Huairou in a thinly-veiled bid to make the conference as inaccessible as possible to those attending it. In order to get to the conference, the NGOs and women activists (including over 400 women in wheelchairs), literally had to wade through fields of mud to get to the conference tents! However, despite the mud and the teeming rain, Clinton and Albright said that they had never seen such enthusiastic, energised people at the event. They both acknowledged how crucial Huairou was in addition to the publicised formal work, which resulted in the famous Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This was because Huairou was the key moment that enabled the NGOs and activists to collectively meet and engage in action around what was being formally agreed and, critically, to bring it home to their networks, their local communities and imbed it into their work.

 

Huairo, Bejing 25+ 1995

Women discuss the issues at the Non-Governmental Organizations Forum held in Huairou, China, Sept. 3, 1995, as part of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing. (U.N. Photo/Milton Grant)

Clinton’s and Albright’s recollections of the events serve as a microcosm of the issues women face in claiming equality. Many people (read: powerful men and patriarchal systems and institutions) are threatened by the idea of women gaining power. For example, the Chinese authorities recognised the power of the message that was being shared at Beijing, and at Huairou, and the threat it posed to their power and regime. This is the reason why they felt a need to censor, sideline, and marginalise this message. Even as both Clinton and Albright were emphasising the “pragmatic” case for women’s participation and representation, e.g. the myriad research that demonstrates that gender equality helps to grow economies (amongst other benefits), those in power still didn’t want to listen.

 

While many feminists are understandably exacerbated that an economic case has to be made to justify women’s inclusion (shouldn’t the fact that we make up 50% of the population and are human beings be justification enough?), the mudslinging, backlash, and censorship that women face as they seek to participate, even in the face of all of peer-reviewed scientific evidence making the case for their inclusion, illustrates the depth of the problem women face in claiming power. The patriarchal system colludes against women’s inclusion, even against its own best interests. We might think money is all-powerful but, in many cases, culture and tradition are still stronger than financial capital when it comes to keeping women subjugated (expect more on why changing culture is all-important to empowering women to claim their rights in Part 2).

 

The recollected events also serve to illustrate the resilience and determination of women in fighting back against the many obstacles that are put in their way. In this case, literally wading through mud – in many cases, in high heels! – in a bid to realise their right to equally participate at all level of society and be valued as citizens. Because women have traditionally not been allowed into the political fold, much of women’s organising of necessity has come at a grassroots level and from informal action, often happening in parallel to formal efforts. While clearly women need to be – and deserve to be – represented formally too, this informal action also has huge power to bring about change and deserves greater recognition and support in its own right (consider, for instance, the incredible activism of the women of Sudan and South Sudan). Further, it highlights the vital role that NGOs and grassroots activists play in translating formal commitments into action on the ground and the need to value and join up formal and informal efforts more.

 

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing on Sept. 15, 1995

The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing on Sept. 15, 1995 (U.N. Photo/Yao Da Wei)

As both speakers emphasised, Beijing wasn’t just about having nice conversations; it needed to be about commitments and action. This included implementing the Beijing commitments on US soil. To do this, a tight “tag-team” relationship was formed between Clinton’s and Albright’s roles as First Lady and Secretary of State respectively, and other key figures in the Clinton administration. This network helped them to continue pushing for women’s participation and representation in positions of power such as the Senate and keep a weather eye to ensuring US laws at federal, state, and local levels did not impede women’s equality. Both women emphasised the perennial need for women to work collectively, help one-other to rise up through systems of power, and ensure platforms and networks exist for women to come together globally to share strategies for getting the work done. This is an evolutionary process – not something that happens overnight – and the torch needs to be passed on from woman to woman, including across political parties, because women’s rights are not a partisan issue. Both women discussed the recent setbacks during the Trump administration with dismay. However, their overall message rang loud and clear – these push-backs have to make women even more determined to challenge cultures that prioritise fiction over fact and the subjugation of women over their full inclusion, participation, representation, and flourishing as human beings.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article which discusses the progress made since the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action and where our attention must be focused going forward.

 

 

Featured photo by White House Photograph Office

 
 

 

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

ARTS + CULTURE

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

james baldwin I am not your negro
deepthi suresh stand news

Deepthi Suresh

18th September 2020

 

Raoul Peck’s documentary is a political statement and looks deep into the mind of James Baldwin. It is a thought-provoking and cinematic biography with a mission; a mission to show America through the eyes of an African-American with scattered shreds of hope, horror and disgust.

 

History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we are literally criminals. I attest to this: the world is not white; it never was white, cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power, and that is simply a way of describing Chase Manhattan Bank.

– James Baldwin, I am not your Negro

 

Race is part of our history. Our present, our past and most certainly our future. “I am not your Negro”,  is a documentary that makes you rethink race. It pinpoints the Hollywood stereotypes and police brutality as Baldwin in his compelling analysis, describes a “mirror stage” culture that Black people went through in 20th century America. As kids, they would gleefully cheer and identify with the white heroes and heroines of Hollywood culture; then they would see themselves in the mirror and realise they were different from the white stars and in fact weren’t different from the baddies and “Indians” they’d been booing.

 

The documentary is mainly built around the unfinished manuscript that was intended to be a personal recollection of Baldwin’s friends, the civil- rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr who were all assassinated within five years of each other. The voice-over narration by Samuel L. Jackson may be one of the best performances in his career. If you are looking to better understand Baldwin himself through this masterpiece, then you will be pleasantly surprised because this film shies away from it. This genius move by the filmmaker allows viewers to appreciate Baldwin’s powerful eloquence. The audience thus is able to form a portrait of the man behind through his own words. However, the documentary omits a very crucial aspect of his work and life: his sexuality. During the 60s liberals and radicals mocked Baldwin alike for his sexuality. President John.F.Kennedy and others referred to him disparagingly as “Martin Luther Queen” and Eldridge Cleaver, one of the leaders of the Black Panther Party, wrote in his memoir Soul on Ice: “The case of James Baldwin aside for a moment, it seems that many Negro homosexuals, acquiescing in this racial death-wish, are outraged and frustrated because in their sickness they are unable to have a baby by a white man.”

 

The archival footage which is culled from Baldwin’s university speeches and his television appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, demonstrate to the audience the man himself in his usual piercing fire. The clips beautifully edited by Alexandra Strauss rightly showcases the contrast of the horrific past, and the evil present thus illustrates the urgency of Baldwin’s words even today. The protests that have engulfed the social media and the cries for justice seem like a distant call from the past, for example, the 1960’s scenes of police brutality in the South against clips of Rodney King and the tragedy of Ferguson. Peck is also astute in using Baldwin’s words about pop culture and the Hollywood liberal dilemma especially through films such as The Defiant Ones, Dance, Fools, Dance, Imitation of Life and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Baldwin through his words shows how racism was wired into the most seemingly liberal pieties. He believed Hollywood of stereotyping black menace and subservience as foils for purity and innocence. This documentary also, therefore, becomes a commentary on Hollywood that reaped profits banking on racial stereotypes and on perpetuating a fiction of America as a pioneer for democracy, freedom and ultimately the perfect American dream for ‘all’. I am not your Negro is an astounding statement on race that continues to resonate today and is a must-watch.

 

You can watch the trailer below:

 

 

Featured photo by Sedat Pakay

 
 

 

#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

VIDEO

#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

sustainable fashion - second hand september
ARIANNA STEWART - stand news

Anastasiya Sytnyk

17th September 2020

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

ENVIRONMENT

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

sustainable fashion brands second-hand september
anastasiya stand news

Anastasiya Sytnyk

16th September 2020

 

Consumers are slowly beginning to change their clothing from fast fashion items to ones from sustainable brands. Instead of buying cheap clothing at the cost of someone else’s unfair treatment and pay, we’re becoming more and more likely to pay a little extra for our clothing to ensure it had been produced ethically and with as little environmental impact as possible. Many sustainable fashion labels are devoted to noble causes and also donate a lot of their income to charities and organisations that actually fight for change and equality. Here are 10 sustainable labels that you should get behind and why! 

  

1. Able 

Able are determined in their ethics which provide clothing Artisian-made in Peru and fight for fair labour practices, B corp. They believe that in order to end poverty you must create economic opportunities so that people, specifically women, can provide for themselves. This brand sells lovely items like denim, shoes, bags and jewellery. Their items are made by women from all over the world who are paid fairly and come from all walks of life. 

 Some of my favourites:

 

2. Tentree 

Tentree is another great sustainable brand whose ethics are that their products are ethically made and organic, B corp and Eco-friendly which gives back to the environment. The people behind Tentree feel a strong sense of responsibility to preserve and protect the world we live in. Each time an item is purchased a tree is planted. The motto of the company is “buy one, plant ten”, they believe you don’t have to be a hardcore environmentalist to make a difference. The brand has planted over 42 million trees around the world! 

Some of my favourites:

 

3. Boden

Boden, another great label who are passionate about ethical trading, fair wages, giving back and recyclable packaging (which is very important in a time where brands overpackage their stuff). Boden is a British brand which was founded more than 25 years ago and is renowned for being both ethical and expansive.

Some of my favourites:

 

4. Kotn 

Kotn is one of my personal favourites because of their soft and breathable Egyptian cotton. The bran works directly with farmers by paying fair prices for cotton and assisting supplies in making the switch to organic. Their ethics are simply, B corp, safe and fair labour standards for all. 

Some of my favourites:

 

5. Thought Clothing 

Thought Clothing create eco-friendly clothing from organic ingredients which include cotton, bamboo and hemp. This is another UK brand which ships worldwide and is dedicated to being sustainable. 

Some of my favourites:

 

6. Ref Jeans 

Ref jeans is an amazing eco-friendly Tencel, practices, organic cotton brand which launched in 2017 making affordable denim available to all. The thing about Ref Jeans is that they use only a third of the water used by other denim companies! 

Some of my favourites:

 

7. Girlfriend Collective 

This site is brilliant for real and honest photoshoot images advertising their recycled materials in all sizes. No photoshop or retouching their models which makes them very much fashion-forward and inclusive with sizes that come from XXS to 6XL. Their ethics are simple, inclusive sizing, ethical working conditions and fair wages to all. Unlike other brands that manufacture in Vietnam, the workers at these factories are provided with safe working conditions and fair wages as well as standard working hours.  

Some of my favourites:

 

8. Cuyana  

This label follows the motto “fewer, better things”. They believe you don’t need to buy a lot of things that don’t last and better to buy one or two things that are good quality. The brand chooses manufacturers that are close to raw materials so there is less travelling and sourcing items.  

Some of my favourites:

 

9. Amour Vert 

This brand is very much about minimising their waste by making small quantities of clothing in the US with a focus on sustainable options for materials, like organic cotton. The company plants trees every time a t-shirt is purchased with over 220,000 trees planted for far. There is an option to donate 1 dollar extra on top of your order to plant a tree. 

Some of my favourites:

 

10. Everlane  

Everlane is one of the brands that have nothing to hide. They show its markup proves as well as how each garment is created showing the factories and the conditions it is in. Although they may not be super environmentally focused it is still important that they are completely transparent with their customers, unlike certain fast fashion brands. 

Some of my favourites:

 

 

Featured photo by @charlotablunarova