In the heat of a shopping moment, it’s easy to forget just how powerful we are as consumers.
The spending flurry certainly doesn’t leave much time for full consideration of the consequences your dollar is enabling. Where does it go? Who is being paid what? How much does an item of clothing actually cost to make? Who makes my clothes? What are the environmental impacts of my clothing? How can I change it?
It’s these pesky, niggly questions that get left behind as quickly as the trends of tomorrow cycle around, adding to the growing pile of issues the fashion industry so casually leaves in its wake.
From tonnes upon tonnes of post-consumer waste (much of it barely worn and un-recyclable), environmental transgressions and human rights abuses, our obsession with clothing is reaching a tipping point.
But even as ethical fashion, and conscious consumption, moves to the mainstream it’s still relevant to ask why your dollar – and how you spend it – matters.
From raw material to sitting pretty in your wardrobe, you have a say in how your clothes are made. Here’s why how you spend your hard-earned dosh has a ripple effect the whole way up, and down, the supply chain.
It helps end human rights abuses of garment workers
Fashion should be fun, make you feel good and contribute to a well-functioning society like any other industry. But the harsh reality is, that for a large majority of the 60 to 75 million workers in the fashion textiles and footwear industries, lack of fair working conditions and even outright abuses are part and parcel of going to work. Forced labour, sexual harassment, discrimination, child labour and unsafe working conditions are often the ugly truth behind glossy campaigns and clever marketing strategies, designed to feed the beast of endless trends. Choosing to buy from transparent, socially-conscious labels helps to end the cycle, and sends a message that consumers expect high standards from retailers.
It supports a healthy environment
Mass production and trend-driven fashion cycles have created an unprecedented level of consumption – and the environmental effects are staggering. According to Fashion Revolution, 20% of all global water pollution is thanks to the dyeing and treatment of textiles, and the manufacturing of just one t-shirt uses the same amount of water one person would drink over three years (that’s 2,720 litres, by the way). Another alarming stat: In Australia alone, there’s more than 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather just wallowing in landfill. And yet, many of us are still buying like there’s no impact.
But it’s not all doom and gloom; you’re the one with the change agent right there in your wallet. Your money means choice, which in turns means power. By choosing a brand that makes a conscious effort to lessen its impact while creating high-quality clothing worth keeping, you will inevitably contribute to growing demand for better practices. So shop well!
It redefines what value is for
Since the industrial revolution and the creation of the idea of fast fashion, our concept of good value has been flipped on its head. Now, cheapest equals best for a consumer that’s both cash-strapped and style-conscious. And when there’s options that tick both boxes, why not? But value is about so much more than just the RRP; quality, craftsmanship, fair conditions and sustainability should all be factors in the purchase weigh up. Buy less, buy better and make it count.