November 16, 2015 by Cláudia
Fashion is a way of life, associated with the definition of one’s personality. Your sense of style defines who you are, it is an escape from the everyday insecurities and adversities. Through fashion you can build your own image, your persona. You can define yourself as a strong, confident person.
This fashion craze phenomenon is associated with advertisement which is designed to make consumers feel like they need the product, like it is necessary to have it in order to be happy, like having great clothes will immediately make us confident, happier and generally more successful. This has emphasized with consumerism.
That’s probably why an average person purchases 68 garments and 7 shoes and throws away 10 pounds of clothes each year.
Despite the obvious environmental implications, producing an unsustainable amount of waste, air and water pollution, there are ethical issues when it comes to fashion nowadays, at least concerning the biggest multinationals. In order to deliver fast cheap fashion, these companies have sweatshops in countries of the third world with whimsy payments, inhumane working conditions and a great percentage of child labor. These workers work 12 hours a day, and sometimes even 14 hours, in poorly ventilated spaces, often exposed to toxic environments. With no protection in case of accident, accidents are frequent and some extremely disabling. The majority of these workers confess to have been verbally abused, beaten or harassed. Basically, these sweatshops don’t consecrate, whatsoever, the basic human rights.
But we all know this, at least vaguely. We have all wondered how can a product be delivered so cheaply. This comes as no surprise. But we forget, we get starstruck by the fabulous confident beautiful models that appear in advertisements and the trends that beg us to follow them.
Personally, I don’t believe human nature is bad, and I think the majority of people would agree that this is not ethically correct. But we disclaim our responsibility: it’s not me who is exploiting these people, it’s not me who is polluting the environment, I am just buying. We disconnect the act of buying and what has happened in the process of making that product, as if they are two completely different things. It is a way of cognitive dissonance that allows people to continue to buy things they believe they need and maintain their ethical values and belief in human rights.
This is not accidental, of course. Everything is made so that we either disconnect the responsibility of the buyer or we conveniently forget about what’s behind. We are built into acting like consumers instead of citizens: prices and sales come before human rights and protection of the environment. But really, this is a manipulation that results from the pressure to make money, that is not counterbalanced by any pressure to be ethical. Things are made so that consumers forget about what they deep down know is happening, and evade themselves from the atrocities that are behind the cute little dress we want to buy. We are being manipulated to numb our feelings and our ethical propensity, by forgetting or looking the other way so that we let ourselves buy something that we are manipulated to consider necessary to our happiness.
But actually, to buy something is to support the way is was made, not only with your money, but with your validation implying that even if you don’t agree with the way that product has been made, you are willing to purchase it. To buy these clothes is to be an accomplice of this violation against those people. It is basically giving these companies the green card – I don’t necessarily agree with what you do but I will buy your products nonetheless.
This is turning into an endemic problem. Almost every big company is involved in some unethical or environmental issue. But this is a problem that is totally preventable, and can have positive outcomes in every aspect. It is not complicated to change this because it is us, the consumers, that have real power. Companies are nothing without buyers and the whole market is built around our wants and needs.
So, instead of acting like there’s nothing we can do or as this is a problem without solution, we should just start to be the change that we want to see. One person can’t possibly do all to eradicate this whole issue, but we can do an awful lot! If we stop buying products involved in cruelty, then invariably companies will have to change their policies in order to please the costumer.
By buying second hand, fair trade, green clothes or even make them yourselves, you will get better quality fashion, more durable, more unique but even more important than that, you will feel like you are doing the right thing. To feel good with clothes is to buy things that were made fairly. No need to look the other way, no need to make excuses. Just clear conscience.
Fast fashion is dishonest. It capitalizes our need to fit in, it makes money out of our insecurities. It gives us products that are made to last little time. It explores people who are in desperate need for money so have to submit to inhumane working conditions. It makes us unhappy, constantly searching for a photoshopped idealistic image we will never achieve.
Fashion is about feeling good about ourselves, about expressing who we are and being creative. So what I propose is a new view of fashion: personal, ethical, environmentally friendly and inclusive instead of exclusive.
It is my view that this is the way that fashion can be about confidence and happiness.