Walk into a retail store and one finds herself in a multidimensional world of plastics. The desirable dresses on display are draped over glossed synthetic white dolls, poised and adorned with black pairs of metal and plastic framed sunglasses. Next to them lies a pile of neatly folded tops and trousers, all attached with tightly knotted paper and plastic price tags. Rows and rows of shoes, purses and various other artificial accessories punctuate the hollow space in between each doll, leaving plenty of room yet for the human bodies that take up the role of ‘shoppers’.
The personification of a modern day fashionista. Image: ASC
Welcome to the world of retail shopping, where humans and synthetics rub shoulders on a regular basis, as old friends do.
In this world, there is much emphasis on colour, size and design, with little or no regard for durability, sustainability, nor functionality. Fast and high street fashion have become more than trends, they define the cosmopolitan lifestyle and dictate what we wear and what we throw away. Clothes go out of style in a matter of months or less, and there’s always something new to be coveted for. As a result, many wardrobes are overfilled with clothes that people never wear, and eventually, what was once flaunted as pieces of pride, end up being ditched in mass dumps and ultimately buried under piles of other trash in landfills.Out of Sight, Out of Mind
From riches to rags, clothes that ended up in a dumpsite. Image: trustedclothes.com
The clothing industry not only pollutes the environment, it is a machine that churns out sweat and blood from millions of poorly paid and neglected labourers in sweatshops. Most of us care to look at the clothes label only to identify if it’s ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Bangladesh’ or elsewhere- though what actually happens in the Chinese or Bangladeshi garment factories is immaterial to us. This detached consumerism sits in the driver’s seat of our shopping excursions, and we rarely stop to notice the grave implications caused to the environment and people in the production chain through our ravenous appetite for being in vogue. It is imminent that we start owning up to this and be more accountable and responsible for the choices we make as a consumer.
The simplest way to spark a positive change is to put a stop to the shopping autopilot. Responsible and sustainable consumption begins with halting our rash impulses to buy, and asking the questions that matter on how the product was made.
The next time we walk by a pair of sunglasses, be it designer or not- bear in mind that there is much more than meets the eye. The shady story begins not at the manufacturing stage, but further back to the mining of the nickel or silver used to make its metal frames. And the plot does not end when the pair of sunglasses is misplaced and replaced by just another pair- that’s just a detour on the route to the very end- where the plastic, glass and metallic scraps ultimately end up. They could be broken down into tiny pieces and ingested by an unassuming hungry bird scavenging the lands of strange looking food scraps; or they could be given new life, incorporated into a new product- maybe even a new pair of sunglasses. Whatever it may be, it is ultimately us who gets to write the ending to the story and the sooner we take up the pen and compose a happy ending, the better it would be for all, including the hungry bird.