Clothing & Consumerism : Is a better storyline possible ?

Something that truly astonishes me with us, humans, is how we truly believe to be disconnected from the web of life; how we believe to be completely separated from the rest of creation and do not realize how our actions impact the world around us.

Today, let’s talk about clothings.
Something that is part [for most of us  I guess] of our everyday life; yet, how often do we truly think about it ?

The current story :

Most of us buy our clothes through the fast fashion industry.
Okay, stop everything. First thing first, what is ‘fast fashion’ ?

‘Fast Fashion :an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers’
From merriam-webster online dictionary

Doesn’t sound So bad, right ? Well… Let’s paint a broader picture of what’s going on here.
Fast fashion has huge impacts, that we’re often not aware of [out of sight = out of mind, right?], both socially and environmentally.

Fast fashion is based on creating more and more demands for goods, as the customer try to ‘keep up’ with the rapidly changing trends. Clothings are seen as disposable and not much thought is given into how they are made.
I mean, do we often question who made our clothings, and how it was made, when we buy a new cheap t-shirt on sale ?

In the quest to produce cheaper and cheaper clothing items, brands often produce their goods in countries where workers rights are not guaranteed. Garment workers are also among the lowest paid workers in the world. From Clean Clothes Campaign website we can read that ‘Workplace exposures to toxic agents, noise and repetitive motion and structural neglect of the safety of buildings continue to cause injuries and take lives. Also are workers, the majority of which are women, vulnerable to sexual, verbal and psychological harassment and violence. ‘

Not only are workers exposed to many risks including toxic agents, the environment also is.
For example in regard to toxic dyes, in a post dating from August 2017, EcoWatch writes : ‘Dyes are creating a chemical Fukushima in Indonesia. The Citarum River is considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world due in great part to the hundreds of textile factories lining its shores. According to Greenpeace, with 68 percent of the industrial facilities on the Upper Citarum producing textiles, the adverse health effects to the 5 million people living in the river basin and wildlife are alarming.’ 
And this is just one example among many.
Added to that, we’re using huge amounts of resources to produce and ship clothings all over the world : from the fossil fuel most-likely used in their transportation to the huge water footprint creating a piece of garment has. Consuming clothings at such a rate is just not sustainable.

We could also mention the material used to produce our clothings. For example, do we think about how the cotton used to create our t-shirt was cultivated and the impact it had on the soil ? Most of the time, there’s a lot of pesticides involved.
We could also mention synthetic fabrics like polyester, that are more and more used in the clothing industry – but lately researchers have found that these materials release plastic microfibers [in other word tiny tiny pieces of plastic fibers] in our waterways, adding to the global microplastic problem.

And as we tend to see clothing as disposable, a huge amount of it end up in the trash, adding to the global waste crisis we’re facing  [once you realize that there’s no ‘away’ to throw the trash, it becomes crazy to see how much trash we produce annually- but this is a subject for another time] – wasting at the same time all the resources we used to produce them.

And sadly there would be so much more to add…

[I will add links for you to read more about this topic at the end of the post. Pages and pages could be written on this subject.]

Okay, so now we have a picture of how the story usually goes on presently.
If you never dived into this subject, it might be a bit overwhelming- and you might be feeling powerless. But now that we’re aware of what’s going on, here comes the interesting part !
Now we have a choice.
Now we have to decide: is this how we want the story to continue ?
Is this something we agree with ?
And if not, why continue this story then?
Is there a better way ?
What could it look like ?

An alternative storyline :

I personally believe we can write another ending to this present story. I do not think that we’re doomed to perpetuate this situation.

The first step toward being able to change something, I believe, is to become aware of the problematic and present state of matter; and then through these new pieces of information, go inward and change our thoughts if needed; ‘update’ our thinking in light of the new information. Then, we can take actions – if that’s what we align with.
[I mean, if our actions are based on our thoughts … if we do not update our way of thinking – or views of the world- we won’t update our actions, right ?]

In this case, I think it would be primordial to re-think our relationship to ‘stuffs’.
Do we really need that much stuff ?

For me, the first aspect of what I call ‘conscious consumerism’ [ wrote another rant on it if you wanna really read my thoughts on this subject] is to really be conscious about consumerism itself and our relation to it.
And then it’s about being aware of our choices and their impact, and make choices that align with our values.
[but that’s of course just how I personally see things. Feel free to disagree.]

Okay, so now that we did our little inner thoughts and values audit -and this will be different for everyone, everyone will have different values – what do we do ?

We become aware that alternatives exist.

I think that this point is really important : if we do not know that alternatives exist, we’ll continue to do as we always did, ‘because that’s the only way’.
So, threat not dear brains, alternatives do exist !

Before even thinking about ‘what to buy then ?’,  we can realize that maybe buying is not even the only solution ! [Old habits die hard, I know] We can fall in love again and again with what we have- instead of seeing clothing items as disposables we can get into the habit of caring for them to make them last, to repair them if possible when broken, or to customize them when we begin to be tired of a particular piece.

We can also choose to have less pieces of clothings, but choose pieces that would last us longer, or that would be more versatile and go with more of the other pieces we have [people that adopted a ‘capsule wardrobe’  have become masters of this art !].

We then can ask ourself if buying new pieces of clothings is the only solution when we need something new. More and more conscious fashion bloggers are showing us that buying great 2nd hand pieces is possible and that you do not need to trade your style for a more conscious way of life, if that’s something that could be worrying you.
Buying from 2nd hand shops or online groups, organizing clothes swaps with friends, or just renting clothings for special occasions: more and more of these options are becoming mainstream [ again].

And finally, if we go for buying a new piece of clothing, even then better choices are available to us.
We can look into the materials used, and choose more eco-friendly ones [bamboo, organic cotton, hemp, plant-based or water-safe dyes …] from company that care about their employees [yes, these exist; really they do.]. Some of these clothing pieces though might be a bit pricier, but if we buy less, can’t this be seen as an investissement? Even more when we know that it will most likely lasts us longer and in the end maybe be cheaper than needing to buy the same piece of clothing again and again [and again] ? This really depend on the particular piece you’re looking for,; and I know this alternative is not always a possibility – no need to feel guilty ! Let’s just do the best we can from our current situation and not focus on being perfect [ is perfect even something that exist?!?]. Only just thinking again about our shopping habits is a huge step!

I personally believe that living a more conscious lifestyle is really about becoming real with ourselves and our values, and then doing our best to live by these values- and this, will look different for each person.

Edit 21/03/17 : Okay, so there’s something I mentionned in regard to one of the links I shared below but that might be essential to this subject, and worth sharing here:
I do not believe that making better choices in regard to what we buy will make less people employed / favorise unemployment.
I believe that :
1.Asking for better choices sends a strong message to manufacturers [that we want better working conditions for the workers + more environmentally-friendly choices ]& that if there’s enough of us asking, they won’t have any other choice than to make the switch Or that companies with better standards will give employment to the workers who would have been employed by the other companies.
2. Being okay with buying less but better quality clothes where workers are better paid, doesn’t mean less people will work; but maybe simply that these workers, having better working conditions and better pay, will not need to produce more to make a decent living.
3. A shift in consommation doesn’t mean that less people will have jobs, but maybe simply that others sectors will develop [here it could be about tailors, seamstresses, the 2nd hand clothings industry, or even entrepreneurship opportunities].

Some links to dive deeper into this subject :

+ The True Cost movie – A must watch about this subject -even just their website is filled with amazing informations:
http://truecostmovie.com/

+ ‘My Green Closet‘ – Awesome youtube channel about all things conscious-fashion.
[I would particularly recommend her video called ‘Feeling Overwhelmed with Ethical Shopping & Intentional Living’, or the video she recently posted about garment workers called ‘ Do you believe in women’s rights?’ ] :
https://www.youtube.com/user/MyGreenCloset

+ Kristen’s Leo youtube channel – a channel that focus on veganism mainly but with great videos on conscious fashion too  [she also just recently posted a video in collaboration and on another channel, that I’d definitely recommend watching, where she mentions a subject I forgot to address here : making better clothing choices is not saying that we want all these people employed in the fashion industry to go unemployed, but simply sending a message to companies that customers do care about these issues, and in the end influence them to change their way of production. Do I also believe that it’s possible to produce less stuff while not crashing the economy and making lots of people go into poverty? Yes – but it would take hours to really dive into this subject, another time I’ll try to, for now this is already way too long. Let’s just says that if we buy less but higher quality stuff, that might be a bit pricier but with people being paid more to produce these items [being payed a fair wage], then they anyway would need to work less and hence produce less to make a decent salary, right ? And then in general isn’t the economy always shifting and changing anyway ? Is it so unbelievable to think that we can find a win-win solution for all ?]:
https://www.youtube.com/user/KristenElleTV

+ Story of stuff‘s video on microfibers :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqkekY5t7KY

+ Clean Clothes Campaign website :
https://cleanclothes.org/

+Fashion Revolution website :
http://fashionrevolution.org

+ The EcoWatch article I mentionned earlier :
http://www.ecowatch.com/fast-fashion-is-the-second-dirtiest-industry-in-the-world-next-to-big–1882083445.html

+ Two cool articles on the fashion industry and its waste crisis :

* http://europe.newsweek.com/old-clothes-fashion-waste-crisis-494824?
rm=eu

* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/transforming-the-fashion-industry_us_57ceee96e4b0a48094a58d39

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