BY JANET LIDDELL
We are overindulged with possibilities and have access to a wide variety of fashion and lifestyle options. The media relentlessly targets us and incentivises consumerism to fulfil a craving for fashion and lifestyle regardless of budget. The media determines image is everything and was key in driving the fashion excesses of the 1980s, but a tipping point was crossed with the worldwide economic crash in 1987. The marketplace is awash with options, but access does come at a cost. The burden of constant access is reflected overall in the planets plummeting resources.
Manufacturers have tapped into consumer cravings and continually feed the marketplace with products. Consumerism has made mass market monsters, always greedy for more consumerism. Purchases rarely deliver the rewards the marketing promotes, causing a constant struggle to keep up with everchanging fashion. Mass consumerism is the process we use to satisfy cravings and yet cravings can never be satisfied or obtained. Manufacturers know a week after we buy a product it is no longer the brightest or best, and the craving resumes. Even with mass consumerism, manufacturers are outproducing demand. Statistics show many items get little use or are never even purchased and so much is discarded to landfill to be replaced by more products. Processes are exploited to produce on a mass scale in a short time, greatly compromising quality for quantity. Published evidence identifies the sheer scale of operation simply to satisfy our craving. Beyond the gloss and strategic lighting of marketing are many manufacturing flaws including use of cheap materials, exploitation of labour, inequality, toxic working conditions and environmental damage. The resources of the planet are insufficient for the modern vice of mass consumerism, the dirty habit and gluttony of fast fashion. Enough has happened in the world to make it blatantly clear current processes cannot persist. For too long marketing has manipulated us into spending money. Before another tipping point is reached, we need to regain control and become the influencers of our own unique style. We should not devalue ourselves because we cannot achieve the images media pressurises us with. We need to change to spending our money on products which are important to us. By moving our focus from mass consumerism, we can take control with the liberation of purchasing power reshaping markets. Each purchase needs careful consideration, taking an instant to ask ‘why?’ before we buy. The object is not to make sacrifices or deprive ourselves, but to become powerful in our choices. There is no investment required to change or refocus. We do not need to alter our lives politically, radically or partake in activism. Using the power of knowledge, we can be the change we want to see. A sustainable life is not a product which can be bought but a system to be achieved gradually using mindful consumerism replacing used and worn out with quality sustainable items. If a product is from an ethical, sustainable source, it will be used, cared for, and loved; it merits a valuable position in our lives. It is an exciting education discovering the provenance of an item before it takes a place in your wardrobe or home. Living sustainably requires research and time but can be completed in stages within scope of any budget. Right now, the most sustainable things are those we already own. Using the power of positivity, it is an ideal opportunity to go shopping in our wardrobes. By wearing clothes, trying new combinations, and developing skills to fix or upcycle we can rekindle a love affair with our wardrobe. It is quicker to sew on a button or fix a hem than queue to purchase a mass-produced garment. Quick fixes do not require tailoring skills but sufficient stiches for confidence, and it does not have to look flawless on the underside. My Granny was from a different era, but her approach is compatible with today’s sustainable lifestyle. Skills and values my Granny instilled in me make her my greatest influence. I wonder how we are going to influence our grandchildren and which skills we teach they will cherish. If we live sustainably now, we can relieve the burden and danger of limited resources for future generations, making a stronger foundation for our grandchildren and the future of the planet. There will be slip ups and some failures as manufacturers are not our allies in mindful consumerism. Tripping up on the journey is a lesson to learn from. It is better to falter than not make any attempt at all. Every step has an impact and many steps made by many people will start a ripple effect. Just as consumerism became a mass trend, we can start a movement to sustainable living, if we are empowered to make a change and support each other in the process. So, by avoiding mass consumerism and living more sustainably we will reduce exploitation of the planet. The resources of the planet are far more valuable than pursuit of a picture-perfect image or lifestyle. References: Fashion Revolution. https://www.fashionrevolution.org/tag/who-made-my-clothes Clean Clothes Campaign. https://cleanclothes.org/fashion-problems Bethany Page Austin. https://bethanypaigeaustin.com/2019/05/questions-to-ask-before-buying-clothes