by Shan Purdy
We know that reducing our fashion footprint is a critical step that needs to be taken to reduce carbon emissions, so why do we find it so difficult to give up our ASOS addictions in favour of more ethical practices?
Jared Diamond’s ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive’ talks about how past societies have thrived and flourished, but then died out through habit. The most interesting case study was that of the Greenland Vikings. They built churches and a cathedral, wrote in Latin and Old Norse, wielded iron tools and even followed the latest European fashion trends. They lasted almost 500 years, and finally vanished in one winter because of their inability to adapt to their surroundings; because of their inability to change their habits.
When I read this, I instantly thought, ‘Well..isn’t this the way our society is heading? Isn’t this the way the whole world is heading?’ and it dawned on me how simple it really is; if we don’t change our ways, we will die.
However, it is easier said than done with the constant pressure of social media, influencers and magazines. The overly-nice things influencers say about products because they have been paid to do so is just too much for some people to resist. I won’t lie – I have fallen victim to it myself in the past.
When @bexjadefountain posted those new red Topshop cowboy boots I just had to have them. Truth is, I couldn’t zip them past my chubby ankles so I ended up sending them straight back. Then, I felt vulnerable. I felt ashamed that I had just ordered something I completely didn’t need all because someone with thousands of followers bought it before me.
It’s weird how the psychology works; how FOMO is a very real issue when we’re talking about trends. The use of sale countdowns on websites have even been banned because, according to Dr. Patsy Perry, a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, ‘Scarcity, or perceived scarcity, makes an item more attractive.’, and the anxiety of missing out makes the consumer purchase without even thinking about whether they need it.
Reality check: fashion isn’t the 1000s of new ‘trends’ we see spurted out of the factories of major fast fashion brands every single day – fashion is timeless. It means being able to shop your own wardrobe and make killer outfits from £1 finds in your local charity shop. That is style.
But that’s not what the brands want you to think. They will do anything to make you believe you want that dress. They will also do anything to make you believe that they’re making steps towards a more sustainable practice.
Children, this is called ‘greenwashing’.
Greenwashing is when any brand, not just fashion, promote sustainable practice under false premises purely for marketing purposes. Primark’s sustainably sourced cotton for their £6 pyjamas is a mind-numbing example.
Am I right in thinking if this was really completely sustainable, they would not be £6? It is physically impossible to make a profit on a fully sustainable item if it is being sold for £6 – unless it is being made for far less than that. This means the HUMANS who work tirelessly to make them are being paid pennies. Does that sound ethically sustainable to you?
Other brands are doing the same – Zara, H&M, even ASOS. All they are trying to do is capitalise on an ever-increasing millennial desire to save the planet. And sadly, it is working.
So what do we do now? We capitalise on the power of the consumer. If we change the way we shop, brands will be forced to change how they operate in order to keep their business alive.
Let’s break our bad habit. Give yourself 28 days. You’d give yourself 28 days to stop smoking. You’d give yourself 28 days to start exercising regularly. So, give yourself 28 days of no fast fashion and see how you feel. I did. 4 months later and not one new item of clothing has been bought. And it feels BEAUTIFUL.
In the words of Vivienne, let us not die from habit.