It can be so so easy to walk into a clothing store in any western country, buy a cheap dress, walk out and not think anymore then ‘What a bargain!’, but do we ever really consider the true cost of the clothing that we buy? Behind closed doors across the other side of the world there is a hidden cost to this cheap ‘throw away’ clothing.
Our capitalist society and consumerist tendencies have resulted in a record low price per garment, creating a throw away culture that results in completely inhumane working conditions for garment workers in third world countries like Bangladesh, where the women are earning as little as $15 a month and having to work 14-16 hour days.
Many of these women are not able to parent their own children as their earnings will not allow for education or childcare, so they have to leave their children to be raised by family members in the villages. These workers have little to no rights and work in extremely dangerous conditions, resulting in factory disasters like that of Rana Plaza in 2013 where over 1,000 garment workers were killed as their factory roof collapsed on top of them.
Alongside this Farmers throughout the world are being sold genetically modified seeds and pesticides that are creating the fibres that we wear, polluting our environment in a multitude of ways. Chemical dyes, pesticides and chemical treatments for fabrics and leather pollute waterways throughout third world countries and western countries too, causing huge outbreaks of cancer and disease as well as a huge increase in childhood disabilities and birth defects.
And at the end of this, where does all of our clothing go? At the height of my clothing consumerism I would go through my wardrobe every few months, completely overwhelmed with the amount of clothing I had collected. I’d sit and chuck my clothing into ‘Keep’, ‘Donate’ and ‘Throw’ piles, whilst feeling no guilt as I was only chucking away the broken pieces of clothing. For me there was little thought to the throw pile going to landfill but also do we really know what happens to our donated clothing? Much of the clothing that gets sent to secondhand shops will end up in landfill too anyway. In Australia alone, more than 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather end up in landfill each year.
Over the past few months I have started to educate myself. This has come as a direct result of my actions to downsize my wardrobe in readiness for our Tiny House build. I could see so clearly the impulse purchases that I make, the low quality of much of my wardrobe and the amount of money I actually spend on these garments that I am expected to purchase constantly so as to be fulfilled, loveable and basically have ‘well-being!’ I have purchased far more then I need, pushed into consumerism by a society that is built on it, with little thought to the materials used or where the garments were made.
As a consumer we hold so much power! Here are my top 5 tips on how to stop supporting ‘Fast Fashion’:
- Mend what you have – Consider what you already have in your wardrobe and mend clothing that needs some love.
- Buy less – By not purchasing cheap clothing regularly, I can reevaluate what I actually need in my wardrobe and what I love to wear regularly.
- Buy second hand – Save money and buy clothing that is already ‘in the system’! Look on Ebay for your favourite Levi jeans secondhand or check out your local consignment, vintage or second hand shops.
- Vote with your wallet – Support fair-trade companies with ecological practices and guidelines. Purchase a few high-quality garments that will last. They may cost more in the beginning but they would have been produced in a way that is ethical and ecologically minded.
- Educate yourself – Watch The True Cost. The True Cost is a documentary that highlights some of the negative effects throughout the world as a result of ‘fast fashion’.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic! What are you doing to reduce your consumption and make sure that your purchases support ethical practices?
If you know of any fantastic ethical and ecological clothing brands based here in Australia I would love to hear from you! It’s so important to me that we create a community of like-minded individuals so that we can support and empower each other to make these important choices.
Until next time <3