THE HOW AND THE HOW MUCH
If consumerism is the problem, is conscious consumption the answer?
Yes, in the short term… but there’s more to it.
Since founding GIVE WEAR LOVE and creating a destination for slow fashion, I’ve thought a great deal about consumption; about need, about desire, about status and about how all these factors interact. How much is enough when it comes to clothing? How easy is it to walk the streets with style without an extensive wardrobe? The answer, of course, is… it’s easy. Style and flair are things that shine through our clothing, but in truth come from within. Style is ultimately just the confidence you hold in the outfit you put together and flair is something immeasurable but undeniable.
So why are we compelled to buy into the fast fashion dynamic and to over-buy? Why do we so easily buy into an idea that life is better when we have more than we need, more than we can efficiently use, more than we can manage – to the extent that we then discard things to make room for more new things. Fast fashion has democratised clothing - but at such a cost.
What’s wrong with having too many nice things?
Over consumption, as we all know, is one of the biggest threats to humankind. Consumption fuels the most polluting and exploitative industries and does so on a global scale. Having and wanting – whether it’s food, clothing, or that third overseas holiday in a year - pave the way for destructive practices and the exploitation of millions of people. The more we buy the more the planet’s resources are being drained and the more communities are negatively affected.
The true cost of what we consume isn’t clear to consumers. Businesses are more often than not run without the triple bottom line in mind – they don’t take into account the environment and society whilst measuring the success of their activity. The drive for profit through cheaper and cheaper production costs drives a race to the bottom in price and directly results in resources being under-valued and exploited.
When we look at our consumption we need to think about the How and the How Much. Climate change and over consumption are driving mass extinction and the way we use our money needs to change to reverse this.
The How Much first
The biggest issue with consumption is simply scale. If we reduced what we consume by half, the related climate crisis would be dramatically reduced and many social crises might begin to ease. By reducing the volume of new products produced we could begin to place value on products that last, on respected labour, on everything taking longer and having real consideration being part of the process.
Whilst we address the issue of volume we also need to dramatically review production practices. Fashion is the third largest industry globally, the second most polluting after oil and contributes more to climate change than shipping and aviation combined. Something produced in a damaging way will obviously always be damaging even if it occurs less frequently. Every process that supports a commercial interest should be reviewed and have strategy for change in place to immediately mitigate and ultimately eliminate any negative impacts it has on environment and society. #nooneshouldbeafashionvictim.
Can we consume our way out of the problem?
There is beginning to be a shift in approach in business and consumption. The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility has been around for a while - but is arguably often ineffective when it’s voluntary. Now consumers are leading a growing demand for companies to be held to account for their production practices. Consumers want transparency. They want to hear the story of what they’re buying. They are asking who and how. Collectively, there is a growing push to buy well, to replace bad brands with good. But isn’t buying well simply perpetuating the problem? Not exactly. We will be driving demand in the direction of safety, regeneration, living wages, freedom of association, protection of biodiversity, closed loop processes, a circular economy… the list goes on. Shifting the capitalist model in the way that consumer demand can to place value on people and planet.
As we all personally address the How Much we must immediately, globally and stridently address the How. We can begin to broaden, develop and underline the argument for good production practices which will have a significant and meaningful impact on the ground.
We need intervention at governmental level to penalise fast fashion brands or impose increased taxes on those that don’t begin to change their financial and operational models. Legislation should be introduced to ensure supply chains are put through clear due diligence checks… but while we’re waiting for action let’s change consumer demand by shunning bad brands in favour of good.
What to do now…
Conscious consumption is the beginning of the answer. Make sure your hard-earned money works hard for good. Support commercial entities that support the supply chains and resources that support their bottom line. Buy with conscience and confidence - confidence in the product, in the back story, in the wellbeing of the people and land. Don’t be afraid to ask How.
As Vivienne Westwood once said: ‘BUY LESS. CHOOSE WELL. MAKE IT LAST’.
GIVE WEAR LOVE is here for when you want to CHOOSE WELL….