Today we will be addressing your individual responsibility when it comes to fashion – get ready to get uncomfortable.
Greenwashing: companies are fooling you
Greenwashing involves capitalising on the emotional appeal of eco-friendly and fair trade shopping while companies market their clothes as “green” while not adhering to any formal criteria. Often companies use unsubstantiated or misleading claims for their own benefit. It is a tactic that has been used by Primark, H&M, Boohoo, and many others.
The H&M CONSCIOUS range were bold enough to claim that their ‘Conscious Collection’ had ‘environmental benefits‘ due to the type of fabric they were using. But if we are going to think critically about this no form of fast fashion can benefit the environment. The rapid production of garments, shipping around the world, and off-cuts of fabric will always be environmentally destructive. Earlier this year The Norwegian Consumer Authority unsurprisingly found that H&M did not provide sufficient information about the sustainability of their new collection, and are yet to. It is crucial to be legitimately conscious when shopping, and not have a company trick you into thinking you are.
Consumerism: shopping won’t make you happy
Karen Williams from Medium.com reminded us that “Consuming creates a hunger that can’t be satiated. Impulsive buying is the result of addictive “retail therapy” which we use to soothe hurt feelings or distract us from our problems.”
How often do you feel like going on a shopping spree because you’re feeling sad? What about that intense satisfaction after purchasing something new? That’s your brain on shopping! The neurotransmitter dopamine tends to surge when you’re considering buying something new, as you are anticipating a reward. Dopamine is known to be associated with addictions (such as gambling or drinking) so you can see the potential for damage. Unfortunately this rush of dopamine is short-lived, and once the purchase has been completed (aka the reward has been processed) it won’t be long until you need to shop again for some more satisfaction. In fact some psychologists have suggested that if someone feels as if they can’t be satisfied without shopping, talking therapy is recommended (See Bilder, 2015 for shopping addictions and more). It is really important to evaluate why you feel like you need to consume fast fashion.
Look what you did to charity shops…
Our constant consumption hidden under the ethical guise of being second-hand at charity shops has caused negative effects…This is your formal reminder that: choosing to buy second-hand instead of having to buy second-hand is a privilege. Unfortunately the rise of resale economy is leading to the gentrification of charity shopping. This has forced second-hand shops raising their prices and alienating the communities they initially were created to serve. Here are some useful quotes which have forced me to change my perspective on frequent charity shop shopping:
“Some of us involved in the slow fashion movement can afford to buy brand new, and we are not buying brand new, and we are not buying fast fashion because of the disastrous implications the industry has – while we shop second-hand we need to be mindful of who relies on charity shops because they can’t afford anything else. We need to start thinking about what we really NEED.” (ssustainbly_ on instagram)
“Buying lots of things at charity shops is still problematic firstly because we still over consume and shift our fast fashion attitude to second hand stores (buying just because it’s cheap) and secondly because less fortunate individuals who rely on second hand shops will be left out due to increasing prices” (Unknown)
Don’t get me wrong, I would never put ALL the blame on the consumer: it is changes to trade policies and regulations which will redesign the fast fashion industry. BUT, and this is a rather big but, consumers from higher income backgrounds must try to support companies and practice shopping in a way that minimises the negative impact constant consuming has on humans and the environment. Whether this is buying high-quality clothing that lasts longer, shopping at second-hand stores, repairing clothing they already own, or purchasing from retailers with transparent supply chains – it must be done less frequently to see change.
Consumers must be aware of greenwashing and critically assess whether a company is practising with ethical standards or making broad, sweeping claims about their ethical and sustainable practices. Not only this, but it is time we evaluate what we really need, and get more essentialist with our purchasing. One’s need to add more to their closet once a month from their local charity shop, or gush over the next Love Island contestants Pretty Little Thing drop is causing damage to the environment and human lives, and it is time we recognise that.
With all the information I have provided you over the last 2 months, I’m genuinely asking you to evaluate if you need your next purchase or not. Thank you for reading.