The true cost of fashion consumption 

Recently I watched a documentary called The True Cost.

I’ve talked a lot in OneHundredHangers about the the influence of the fashion industry and marketing on our mindless consumption in today’s world. And this doco put a fresh new spin on my outlook and added another notch to my passion for living with a capsule wardrobe, having gratitude for what I own, purchasing quality over quantity, and being less wasteful.

It makes me really sad to think that big fashion chains make us feel “rich” by offering consumers new, ridiculously affordable options every day, whilst exploiting human beings in poorer countries to supply our frivolous fashion demand.

Western shoppers come home with full shopping bags of garments weekly or even daily at as little as $4.99 a pop.

We’re enabled to live the celebrity life donning new throwaway outfits every week for cheaper than cheap, whilst international garment workers are earning all but $3 a day. 

Nothing new right? Fashion industry or otherwise, what I spend in a day, some foreigners earn in a month or a year. Our living and working conditions and culture are not comparable to that of Cambodia, India or Laos. We all know sweatshops exist and working conditions in third world countries are substandard to our own all round, fast fashion being only one partial influence on overseas economy.

But what ticks me off is that meanwhile, western countries are in masses of debt due to overconsumption and living in a warped existence that we need newer and better “stuff” constantly. The people making this “stuff” live and work in non-humane conditions to keep up with excessive demand from big corporations whom successfully persuade us to unnecessarily buy and buy and buy.

I’m all for giving people in poverty stricken countries jobs, and actually have nothing against the sweatshop concept, but the conditions provided by these western Corporations need to be respectful and fair for workers. Humans are humans, we are all one of the same and deserve fair and respectful conditions and wages.

It reminds me of the ethical drive behind  the “buy organic” argument of which some bury their head in the sand. Out of sight, out of mind. Buying organic is something I also try my best to do, but in all honesty probably when it’s convenient and when I haven’t spent all my money on more interesting things (just being honest). Fashion is probably that “more interesting thing” I’ve spent my money on when I can’t afford the free range beef at the butcher on a Saturday. I may ashamedly be unethical enough to at times eat a factory farmed beef burger, and I apologise for the comparison, but I love the human spirit and I truly can’t swallow the idea of wearing a garment at the expense of the life of another human being.

Western society need to stand up and stop mindlessly consuming and consequently complaining that we’re the ones too poor to pay the bills (or buy free range)!

We feel rich because we have lots of stuff. But we’re poorer than ever, unable to pay off our mortgages and study debts, wondering why it doesn’t add up. Whilst fellows overseas are living and working in substandard conditions with no power to make a change because our mindless demand and naivety to fashion marketing drives their continued poverty.

I’d rather pay more, and own less than think that I’ve contributed to driving these conditions.

Living from 40 items or less for longer amounts of time isn’t much. But The True Cost has made me realise that my capsule wardrobe endeavours are even more so important than I first thought!!

I will definitely think twice before buying an $8 tee shirt from a fast fashion Mecca next time. For Australian shoppers, you can find a list of Australian ethically approved fashion retailers here at behind the barcode, as well as a full 2015 fashion report with heaps of info about the sourcing behind your favourite labels.



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