Let me say before I begin that I am standing on my soap box; I whittled it myself; I am not generally known for my passivity and this is a blog post with an agenda – don’t say I didn’t warn you.
As some of you may know I’ve been refraining from buying any new clothes this year, the reasons for this are three-fold:
- I had too much stuff in my life and I was far to reliant on this stuff to make me happy so I decided I needed to stop filling my life with stuff and fill it with meaning and genuine happiness.
- I think that the disposable or ‘Fast Fashion’ society that we are now living in is bad for the environment.
- The price of clothes has gone, and continues to go, down and down, but the price of producing it is going up, so I had my questions about where this cost was being squeezed and had some nasty suspicions it might be at the expense of the people who make it. And then I watched this:
It turns out my suspicions were founded. This documentary has opened my eyes to the true cost of ‘Fast Fashion’, which really is people’s lives. The hard and difficult truth of the matter is that so we can buy three tops at £6.99 each in H&M, people are dying. We’re effectively buying clothes covered in innocent people’s blood. And anyone who says that these poor people wouldn’t have jobs without this, is effectively saying that these people are lucky we’re here to make them slaves. The choice between nothing and slavery isn’t a choice at all, it’s just like asking people to choose between poverty and poverty. As far as I’m concerned this is some kind of hideous dystopian situation that we are not only condoning but contributing to.
The other day I watched The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (on Netflix, which is where The True Cost can also be found) and there was a very moving scene in which one of the districts were so desperate for change in their unfair lives that they walked into gunfire on a mission, in order to try to make a better life for the future. In Cambodia clothes workers who were peacefully protesting for better working conditions and a living salary, were shot at by the Cambodian authorities, killing eight and injuring over 40. I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between the fictional and dystopian society of Panem, which is based on the many working for little, in terrible circumstances, for the benefit of a minority elite, and the very real ‘Fast Fashion’ world in which we live, which is based on many, working for little, in terrible circumstances for the benefit of the minority elite. 1,129 clothes workers died in Bangladesh when the eight story building they were working in collapsed. It was later reported that factory managers ignored orders to evacuate, and that management had been pre-warned many times that the building was structurally unsafe, but at risk of losing the business of big companies who wanted to sell leggings for £3 a pair, had ignored the risks.
H&M is a business worth $67.8 billion, so why are the people making their clothes earning around $2 a day, working in unsafe conditions, getting unwell from the chemicals they are exposed to and in some terrible cases, dying because of the conditions in which they work???
Obviously it is the industry itself that needs to change, but I think we can all make a difference that will help, and the way we can do this is by completely taking ourselves out of the demand chain. By saying we refuse to buy clothes made by other people’s suffering and refuse to spend our hard-earned cash in immoral businesses, owned and run by complete and utter (and very very rich) wankpots (technical term). We can turn to other businesses who are going to these same countries and paying people fair wages, investing in their communities and the workers as individuals by training them well and ensuring they have safe and happy working environments, as well as a wage which affords them a safe roof over their heads, safe food for sustenance, and the ability to keep and educate their children. Companies like People Tree.
Here is where I normally hear people say that they can’t afford to shop at ethical companies like this. I used to say the exact same thing. For example, unfortunately for me, my favourite dress in the whole of People Tree (this one, in case you’re wondering) is £95. BUT I bet that if you stopped buying a couple of tops or a pair of trousers every time you do the weekly supermarket shop, or stopped popping to New Look on your lunch, for a whole month, you could then purchase perhaps two really beautiful, ethically made and far more durable garments from a company like People Tree.
It’s about changing the way we approach fashion because the thing is, we didn’t need any of those cheap bits of tat anyway! This is another thing that angers me about these huge fashion companies – they use their advertising (which is just a fancy word for propaganda) to convince us that we need all the bollocks they’re selling. That if we buy that weird, shiny, Rita Ora-esk crop-top we’ll look and be as happy and skinny as the emaciated Rita Ora-esk model who’s wearing it in the propaganda poster…sorry – advertisement. ‘Fast Fashion’ now has two types of slave; the people who make it and the people who buy it, the difference is that we, the people who buy it, have the choice to opt-out, to refuse to be part of an industry that ignores the suffering of other people, not only ignores it, but creates it in the first place. By loosing demand, companies will have to make changes.
I don’t think I’ve taken a whole breath in the time I’ve been writing this! If you’re still with me then well done! And thank you! I really used to be a bury my head in the sand kind of person, I didn’t want to know where my clothes came from at all. Then I took myself out of the demand chain for my own personal reasons and then discovered the hideous truth. People shouldn’t be suffering so that I can buy a top at a price that means I could throw it away the next day if I wanted to. End of.
On a personal note I do feel like a happier and more free person since I decided to take steps away from capitalism. I’m keeping my year of ‘No New’ going, but what with Christmas on the horizon I’m definitely going to be making sure that any gifts I buy have been produced in a fair and just manner and that when I do start buying new clothes again, they are ethically produced.
I know this hasn’t been the jolly blog post I normally put up so thank you for reading it anyway! I think it’s really important that we talk about these things.