I’m going to make a bold statement in this post, but I’m quite confident that I’m not very wrong about this. Not many people can be shocked to hear nowadays that there are about a million problems with the fashion industry. There are issues with the origins of materials, with production, with pollution, with garment waste etc. etc. I’ve written about those in all my previous posts, so now I want to focus on solutions. So here it comes, are you ready for this shocking idea that will change your consumerism forever that should totally earn me a Nobel Peace Prize? The only thing we need to do as consumers is to demand more from our clothes. Sounds simple, right? We need to demand better quality in materials, the end product, and the way the end product is produced. We should also only buy clothes that make us feel really good, and look fabulous on us. If all your clothes were clothes you couldn’t wait to wear again, you wouldn’t need to buy new clothes all the time. And I dare to claim that we would be much happier consumers if the products we bought would truly satisfy our wants and needs.
So what would it mean if we demanded more of our clothes? We wouldn’t need to buy clothes so often, because we would be happy with the items we already have: they would be good quality and we would feel good in them. If we demanded clothes were made with as little harm to the environment as possible, we would have much more vibrant nature, healthier rivers, lakes and oceans, and healthier people. We would probably have to pay a little bit more for our clothes, but if instead of buying three bad quality, just okay shirts for 15€, you would buy one good quality shirt that you adore for 15€, then wouldn’t that be worth it? Also, paying a living wage to garment workers could mean an additional price of as little as 1,34€ to consumers (or no additional price to us consumers at all, if multimillionaire owners of fast fashion retailers wouldn’t mind buying one less car or something).
The most concrete thing we should demand is better quality. That’s something we notice immediately, and makes an item more ecological, because it gives the item a longer lifespan and more usage. And I’m surely not the only one who is sick and tired of the quality of clothes in mainstream stores. I’ve bought multiple items from stores like H&M which have had holes in their seams already in the store. And for some reason I still bought them and thought it was acceptable that completely new clothes are already falling apart. Any embellishments are bound to start dropping off your clothes every time you wear them, clothes lose their shape quickly, and bright colours fade even when you’re careful with how you wash your clothes. Do fast fashion retailers get away with this because so many people only wear their clothes a couple of times, so they don’t even notice these faults? Or are we so used to this that we think it’s normal that clothes don’t last? I was extremely surprised to hear that in Finland there are consumer protection laws which say that clothes should last six months, so if they get worn out or lose their colour in six months, you should get your money back. If people actually took their clothes back in cases like this, retailers would go broke, because so many products would be returned. Seriously, when was the last time you had a fast fashion pair of jeans that didn’t get a hole in them within six months?
So the solution to fixing the extremely problematic and complex fashion industry is pretty simple: we should stop buying crap. That should be easy, right? Then why hasn’t it already happened? Well, in part the thanks goes to the real-life Don Drapers of the 50s and 60s who got consumers to think of clothes as disposable, thanks to brilliant advertising. Believe it or not, people used to own much less clothing, and actually used them more than a couple of times before tossing them away. If advertising has been able to change that, then surely it can do the same thing again, but in the other direction. It’s all about changing people’s points of view: do we keep on thinking that shopping for items that won’t last and that give us a fleeting happy feeling is the best way to shop? Or do we challenge that notion and start to consider everything we buy, looking for items that will last and will make us happy every time we use it. Imagine, if everything in your wardrobe was something you actually adored, you’d never have that feeling of having nothing to wear! And every time you left your house you’d feel great and confident, because you know you’re looking fine! Advertising gives us the image that buying new things makes us happy, but do you really know anyone who is happy because of the things they own? Is there a single person who can honestly say they have bought their way to happiness? I really doubt it. As an ethical consumer, most of the things I buy bring me joy, but not because of the item itself. Knowing that I’ve contributed to helping impoverished farmers, contributing to sustaining an independent entrepreneur, or reducing waste by buying second hand items is what brings me joy.