(Don't) Shop Until You Drop
by Fran Haddock
What's Going On Here?
As the high streets reopen this week and Boris encourages us to ‘Get out and shop’, it feels an important time to remind ourselves how fast fashion and mass consumerism are exploiting people and the planet.
What Does That Mean?
Monday saw long queues outside many of the popular high street clothes shops. Whilst it’s nice to feel a sense of normality returning, and many people genuinely need access to affordable items - the ‘shop until you drop’ message from the government sits uncomfortably.
Yes, we need to get the economy back on its feet, but endless fashion lines and production of objects we don’t need supports an unsustainable economy. One built on exploitation and overconsumption - with the aim of endless economic growth which comes at the expense of life on the planet.
Why Should We Care?
We have known for decades that many garment workers are exploited through poor wages, inhumane hours and unsafe working conditions. However the pandemic has highlighted these issues further with huge brands like Primark, Topshop, Urban Outfitters refusing to pay factories for cancelled orders, leaving garment workers at risk of going hungry. At the same time many brands were advertising masks and performatively supporting Black Lives Matter on social media, without actually protecting their own workers or combating inequalities in their company. Fast fashion is an environmental disaster that accounts for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, and that is expected to surge by 50% by 2030. Cotton requires incredible volumes of water to grow - even leading to an entire sea in Central Asia drying out! And synthetic fibres are made from fossil fuels. On top of this 350,000 tonnes of still wearable clothes go to landfill in the UK each year. Are there any signs that this could change? A recent survey by The Seam found that 64% of people surveyed now prefered to repair damaged clothes rather than throw them out, and 45% of people realised during lockdown that they need less ‘stuff’ to be happy! As consumers the power is in our hands to change things, but this will only happen if we disrupt the status quo of consumption.
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