Consumer Culture Overhaul.

The death toll at the garment factory that collapsed a couple of weeks ago in Bangladesh is over 1100 now.

1100 garment workers, men and women making clothes for brands like Primark, Matalan, Benetton and Mango etc are dead.

BANGLADESH-GARMENT-FACTORY-FIRE

The news was reporting that the day of the collapse, workers were refusing to enter the building because of some bad cracks they had concerns with in the structure but after threats of their salaries being cut, the bosses convinced them to go in. Hours later, it collapsed on them.

Never has there been a more relevant time for us to start asking ‘where does my stuff come from?’ .

Never has there been a more relevant time to begin engaging in the world around us as part of the bigger picture of our fashion fixes rather than being blind consumers that hand over a debit card and consider it an isolated purchase.

Every garment has a back story. Every pound you hand over goes to companies that have choices to make about how they treat their workers. From the factory to our wardrobes, every detail matter and we have some important influence in ensuring that the basic human rights of people around the world are upheld and are not sacrificed at the expense of our inexpensive clothing.

The outcry from this preventable tragedy in Bangladesh has put these fast fashion companies under the microscope of the public again and as consumers, buyers and privileged people we have the right and the authority to demand that our clothes are not tainted with the exploitation of workers and their families.  Children are now without their mothers.  Families are now left destitute because their breadwinners are never coming home.

Just this week we have seen a little bit of what our collective voices can achieve and with the pressure of concerned consumers big companies like H&M, Primark and Zara have now signed the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Agreement.  It feels a bit like ‘too little too late’, but the responsibility doesn’t end here with the big guns.

WE are responsible. WE are lured by a society that tells us if we haven’t bought something new to wear in a few weeks that we are less. WE compare ourselves to other people and what they have.  WE read magazines, blogs and watch TV programmes that are designed to make us want stuff.  WE we throw our money away on cheap clothes that come at a high cost.  WE.

I’ve never been more convicted that we HAVE to make some sacrifices in our thinking and spending in order to impact the industries that are getting away with such awful, inhumane practices and I’m even more convicted that I need to tighten up my own actions in this.

One of my favourite quotes is from Donald Miller’s book ‘Blue Like Jazz’.  I remember reading this for the first time about 9 years ago and I had one of those shocking moments that snapped me into reality.  I had to sit back, close the book and really think things through in my life.

“What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.”

Read it again.

“What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.”

What do you do?  Because that’s what you believe in.  I might even go as far to say:  What do you buy?  Because that’s what you believe in.

I am often really good at ‘believing’ in things without a whole lot of sacrifice or follow through but I reckon our spending, consumer culture is the one thing that we are really afraid to tackle because it requires some real counter-cultural sacrifice and role-modelling.  How many of us are willing to really do that?     

So when we say we believe in justice, human rights and the dignity of the poor we need to match that with what we do.  I worry that we think standing up against injustice can often mean that we can be satisfied to sign an online petition, sponsor a child and attend conferences (all good things, don’t get me wrong and don’t stop doing them) and consider our bit done.  But if it stops there and we forget to look at how our unique privilege is effecting and CONTRIBUTING to these issues – I’m afraid we probably don’t really believe in these things at all.

What do you think?

 

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8 thoughts on “Consumer Culture Overhaul.

  1. Really enjoyed your blog post, a thought provoking read. Recently I have become a lot more aware of where I buy clothes, and how the decisions I make should not contribute to someone elses poor quality of life. Used to buy a lot of my clothes in Topman but upon reading up on their ethical practices I have stopped shopping there. I am finding it hard to implement new habits of where to shop and how to shop – does you have any tips or ideas? What mens shops would you reccomend for their ethical stance and what shops should I avoid at all cost? Thanks

    • Hi William, thanks so much for your comment. Really appreciate your thoughts. Topman and the wider Arcadia group are notoriously corner cutters when it comes to workers rights.

      For me, I find charity shopping or second-hand/vintage has really been the best way for me to continue enjoying fashion but at a less damaging rate (to the workers, to the environment as well as my wallet!). I understand that can be harder for guys but there are some GREAT vintage shops online for men – rokit, beyond retro as well as ASOS green room and ASOS marketplace.

      In terms of the high street – there’s nobody really perfectly ethical but m&s and next have been known to be more concerned and effective with their policies. I really hope some of this helps! If you flick back a few posts I wrote about some online tools to help you see where high street shops stand. I think it’s the labour behind the label website.

  2. You’re right, of course you are. We all know it, it just gets lost in our day to day lives. And I’m copying that quote into my diary. It’s one of those profound thoughts that crystallises what you’d always felt, but never quite focused on.

    • I know – it just smacks me in the face from time to time (necessarily so!) So easy and mindless to just continue to consume eh? We can help each other – you’re already an inspiration in this dept!

  3. CHarity shopping it is. Has Primark changed their policies at all? It’s ALWAYS felt a bit wrong shopping at Primark – too good to be true comes to mind, and the clothes don’t fit me very well anyhow.

    • They did sign up to the fire & safety act in Bangladesh & friends that know people behind the scenes in Primark say they are way better and Doing groundbreaking stuff but it isn’t publicised well.

  4. Pingback: Wear Your Wardrobe // Week 1 | Mel Wiggins

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