Are you tired of listening to how much you can do about climate change as an individual consumer? I definitely am. We cannot go to the supermarket and avoid plastics, because they are literally everywhere. It’s a challenge to reduce our carbon footprint if we need to travel and the only affordable option still comes as a flight ticket. We cannot hope to stop children’s and adults’ slavery when a t-shirt cannot realistically be made for 2$. How am I supposed to succumb to fashion trends and posturing on social media if I don’t have a new set of clothes every now and then?
Should we walk around naked?
I am not the kind who often goes shopping, but I understand this is a common hobby for many people, especially, if you are interested in performative arts and styling. And for a bunch more, it all comes to keeping a decent look for work or society in general. So, even if I would like a world where we all wear sweatpants and holey shirts, I understand the need for businesses that provide cute, fancy and elegant clothes.
Recently, I’ve noticed that we start to actually have some available options when it comes to shopping apart from the traditional second-hand shops popularised by charities. Those are vintage shops and circular brands.
First thing, yes, in a vintage shop you buy second-hand items. But here is the difference. In a vintage shop, you only find clothes in good condition. What does that mean for the consumer? You don’t need to go through kilos and kilos of wool and cotton of questionable quality. A vintage shop is often run by someone who puts attention to choosing these clothes so you can trust their quality. Not only that, but they are usually people who have a special liking for fashion and they would provide a consistent style in their boutique. This consistency in style is often the reason why people keep going back to the same shop.
Do you know what can you do with a T-shirt you bought on Primark after a year or two of use? A cleaning cloth. This kind of fabric has very little lifespan and the best thing you can get out of it is some sort of mince to fill pillows with. However, when a brand takes responsibility, they create clothes that will last and that can be recycled into new pieces if their integrity is compromised. Some of them even give you a percentage of their value if you bother to send it back to them. This way, the amount of waste that gets to the overflow landfills is instantly reduced.
These circular brands have even gotten into the second-hand business creating a platform within their online shops to easily trade their brand clothes. This might seem counterintuitive as they offer you the chance to buy from someone else a piece of garment that otherwise you would be buying for full price to them. But they know, in an eco-friendly future, this would eventually happen and they simply decided to be the ones taking a small commission out of it. This helps the consumer, too, because you won’t have to be searching for hours to find that particular jacket you liked but you could not afford to buy new. You’ll have now the opportunity to find it in the same place you saw it for the first time.
Why are these businesses destroying the current fashion industry?
Simply because the current fashion industry doesn’t really want you to trade. They certainly don’t want you to trade at a cheaper price than they do. Brands need to keep on selling new products, they cannot stop selling new stuff, otherwise, their company’s benefits will suffer. Circular brands understand that our economy cannot support such a type of business much longer and they are willing to adapt to a new future. Traditional fashion brands still see much profit to be gained by polluting our world. The best solution they’ve come up with is to buy some ocean plastic (which they’ve put there in the first place) and turn it into their “special model of the year” in hopes of getting some good publicity that will allow them to confidently sell more of the bad-quality high-contaminating but cheaper products they produce (which will ultimately end up in the same garbage patch they claim to clean).
Sometimes, we do have a choice
Like most people, I tend to get frustrated by the current state of the world. It might not be news, the world has always had its flaws, but our daily exposure to information makes me feel much more bothered by it than ignorance would. That is the dark side of knowledge, once you know, you cannot unknow. That it’s why we have to use the little power we still have to make decisions that matter. We cannot give away our energy doing the impossible thing to fight a systemic issue because we would surely fall back into frustration, but we can support those who take the risk of challenging the system that gave them success, changing their ways in pursuit of a better world.
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