There are many aspects of our lives that we take for granted, that are second nature, that we do unconsciously because it is convenient & available.
Purchasing clothes is one of those unconscious acts.
As our culture encourages us to consume more & care less, clothing & "fashion" have become a vacuous means of self expression, as retail therapy provides a quick dopamine fix that morphs into a habitual routine of buying things to fill the void. Our fixation on feeling good all the time is exploited by clever branding & deceptive marketing campaigns as shareholders invest in coercive strategies that motivate us to purchase more shiny new things that are accessible, abundant & cheaper than ever. Evaluating the consequence of our purchases takes considerable mental effort; it’s easier not to care.
Apart from the staggering amounts of waste & pollution the industry creates (global carbon emissions that exceed international flights & maritime shipping combined) the most pressing issue is the inhumane treatment of garment workers. As much as we like to believe in equality, we don’t all start in the same place. Garment workers mostly reside in third world countries & don’t benefit from the same worker rights that you and I take for granted. There is no minimum wage, no health insurance, no job security & no legislative bolsters to deter or prevent harassment & discrimination in the workplace. Coupled with lack of education & systemic prioritising of profits over human lives, garment workers become expedient, vulnerable to exploitation & lack meaningful resources to advocate for their own rights. This is the harsh reality for many people who work at the bottom of the supply chain & it's very difficult for them to escape.
The push for more transparency & regulation of the fashion industry is complex & multifaceted. It requires innovation & collaboration amongst industry leaders as well as serious policy reforms at an international level, which is largely out of our control. While there are plenty of amazing organisations such as Clean Clothes Campaign that advocate for unions to support garment workers & demand supply chain transparency from retail giants that exploit the lack of regulation, a shift in consumer behaviour must happen simultaneously. We the people need to know the truth because we are the ones who drive the change.
To encourage people to advocate for human rights within industries that seem so far removed from our privileged bubble of existence is difficult & sometimes rather futile, as it involves serious amounts of re-education & most of us are too busy, too lazy or too distracted to really take note of how our choices impact people all over the world.
I ask that you simply become aware of your unconscious acts & start to question what you’re buying, why, where it was made, who made it & whether you actually need it. Avoid large fashion retailers as much as possible (you know the ones) & don’t fall for green washing jargon or trends. Challenge your throw away mentality & invest in quality, locally made or ethically produced clothing & thrift or get creative, repurpose old clothes, or simply buy less. By doing this often you start to build momentum & become more aware of your behaviour in all aspects of your life & hopefully encourage others to do the same.
"If not me, then who? If not now, then when?"
For those of you who would like to learn more about the detriment of the fast fashion industry & ways you can contribute to meaningful change; below are some handy resources to get you started: