In the month of November 2016 I watched the documentary ‘The True Cost’ and ‘The Minimalist’. Both forced me to look at how I was spending my money for different reasons.
The True Cost of Fashion opened my eyes to the unsafe conditions workers have to be in. It shows the process of what is necessary to be able to buy a £3 top in H&M. I realised that the way in which I was shopping was very unconscious and unethical. Unethical because people are being taken advantage of the fact that they want to improve their quality of living and working in a sweatshop is an improvement to rural work. So a lot of women have become independent through moving to the city and working in a sweatshop, this is not what I am against. It could be done in a way that it is not only allowing people to become independent but also empowering them and in a safe environment.
Cost to health:
Due to the increase demand for cheap leather Kanpur has become the biggest exporter of leather in India. Its cheap to us but it comes as a detrimental cost to the environment and health of the people of Kanpur. More than 50 million litres of toxic water from the tanneries go into the river Ganga. A river that is holy and serves 800 million people. This causes the drinking water to be contaminated with chromium which then leads to serious health problems such as jaundice, skin conditions and other health conditions.
The fashion industry is the world’s second-largest polluter.
The pollution that is created through the industry creates serious health problems but the conditions in which workers have to work are also unsafe. This was brought to the public eye in 2013 when a sweatshop building collapsed in Dhaka Bangladesh and took over a 1000 lives and left 2500 injured.
The True Cost also investigates not just the people who make our clothes but also the people that grow the material that is required and it found that 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have killed themselves in the last 15 years this is due to Monsanto creating a dependancy with the genetically modified cotton seed which doesn’t produce seeds, meaning that they have to carry on buying product from them and farmers have got into debt which has lead to the mass suicides. And this is because consumers are demanding cheaper and cheaper clothing and western companies are pandering to our demands at the detrimental impact to vulnerable people.
The world now consumes a staggering 80 billion pieces of clothing each year.
The answer is not to completely boycott buying clothes and resort to hand stitching our shirts but instead to ask of the companies that you buy from for more transparency and choosing companies that have more ethical ethos. Everyones journey of being a more conscious consumer will be different. For me I realised through the years I had bought loads and loads of cheap clothes from H&M, Topshop, Zara, primark. Because I loved a bargain, I would get a rush when I found something that I liked and it was 70% off so I could have it for a mere 3 quid! Years and years of this pattern teamed up with me also being a bit of a hoarder has meant that I have a massive wardrobe, and by massive I mean gigantic.
Around the same time I watched the ‘True Cost’ I also watched ‘The Minimalists’ and it opened my eyes in regards to my consumerism and my relationship with stuff. Not only me but society in general, how we buy and buy things with a view that they will heighten our happiness and yet they only serve to weigh us down physically and mentally. I have moved several times and each time I realise just how much stuff I have that I have to move that I don’t even use and how stressful it is. I have also found pieces of clothing with tags still attached and realise that I bought said piece several years ago. So from November 2016 the things I have bought include two pairs of tights from American Apparel and everything else: three jumpers, pair levi jeans, skirt, shirt, dress, converse, bra have been bough second hand via charities, vintage shops and depop. I also hosted a clothes swap with some friends where I parted with items that I have hoarded for a while but hadn’t really worn for a long time and I gained a yellow mustard top that I love very much. A year and two months into my break from buying from the high street and at this point I had also been working in Oliver Bonas for three months I caved and used my employee discount to buy a pair of socks that I didn’t really need just because they were pink and they had embroiled the face of a lady that looks a bit like me: glasses and brown bob. I do quite love them and feel like I will treasure them. Which brings me to my final point which is something that is said in ‘The Minimalists’ which is that we are not materialistic enough in the true meaning of the word. We are more focused on what the item is portraying to the world than actually treasuring the item for itself because when we do treasure it then we are much more particular about what we chose to bring into our life and we are more likely to look after said item. Items become more treasured and less of a disposable item, we will mend and look after our material belongings more which will lead us to become more conscious buyers.
So what can we do ?
- By taking the time to read this you have already consciously decided that you want to be more conscious of your consumption – that is step one: increase consciousness
- Watch the ‘True Cost’ – its an amazing documentary that is moving and inspiring at the same time
- Watch ‘The Minimalists’ – to see how buying less can make you happier
- Use the Konmari method to take stock of the things that you do have because maybe like me, you realise that what you think you have is quite different to the reality of it.
- If there are things that you do need because maybe you saw them in a magazine or a window display or maybe you don’t have one like that, then write them down and wait for a week or maybe even two. You might find that this need was more of an urge and that with time it passes.
- And if it doesn’t then see if a friend has it (specially good for when tools are needed), then if that’s not an option then buy second hand and if all else fails then buy from a company that is transparent about its products.