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Shopping: casting a vote for the world you want

Since becoming a sustainable fashion shopper, I’ve often pondered this question: what if tomorrow all fast fashion consumers around the world decided not to purchase a single item from fast fashion stores? What if they decided to do this for two days, and then a week and then a month and then a year? In my opinion, some important changes would take place. Mainly the gradual fall of all these giant fast fashion houses or rather their transformation. A transformation to fit the new demands of their consumers. Demands that call for improvement in production methods and for the need of transparency. If people refused fast fashion there would be no profit in it and in turn no use of producing fashion the fast way. I know, I’m a bit radical here and maybe a tad too idealistic. Moving on. The question I really want to ask is: what does shopping mean to you?

One of my favourite quotes is by sustainable food advocate and author Anna Lappé who states: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” Simply put our purchasing habits day in and day out impact the entire planet at large. Apply this to our fashion industry today and it means that every time we spend money at any fast fashion store, we cast a YES vote to unfair labour wages, cruel labour conditions, pollutions of waters because of dyes and other chemicals, depletion of natural resources and even a YES vote for people endangering their lives in shoddy factories, potentially dying there. I wish the tags on the garments we buy would make this clear but they don't so it’s something we have to realise for ourselves. If shopping is voting, then it’s also an expression of our power as consumers. If shopping is our power then everything we purchase has a ripple effect. It’s up to us to decide whether that ripple goes out to enrich life on our planet or rather destroy it.

I often think of advertising and the fantasy that the world of fashion creates through it. Don’t get me wrong advertising is amazing, it’s fascinating how a product can be connected to our emotions but when that power is exploited it’s misleading. I often struggle to find the truth in fashion advertisement, it seems with time there is less and less of it: the model doesn’t look like half of the population, the concepts are so far-fetched and worse is that they sell us the idea that more clothes bring more happiness. Fashion is sold through an ultimate fantasy but it’s a clever way to disguise the not so fantastic practices that go on behind closed doors for most fast fashion brands. This needs to change.

I believe that change will come slowly in the fashion industry when we as consumers learn to cast an educated vote through the choice of brands and shops we purchase from. The key is in educating ourselves about what we are buying, to go beyond the advertisement or the labels, to go beyond the easiness. It’s being intentional about the effect we have on the world through the little things. If there are enough of us who do this, fast fashion companies will start asking questions on how not to lose our buying power. It’s already happening today with major fashion brands implementing sustainable practices or initiatives because they are aware that there is a certain shift in buying habits. What is being done today though is barely enough, which is why we need to keep pushing.

The truth is if we all decide to shop differently; fast fashion houses will have no choice but to rethink how they produce to satisfy our purchasing demands and live up to our standards. They must earn our shopping vote in order to make profit. It’s up to you and I to cast this vote, multiple votes in fact, with each item we purchase or refuse to purchase. Who knows maybe one day instead of black Friday, the world will have a 0 purchase day instead. A girl can dream, right?

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