13 - 19 September, 2021
I have decided to continue to give myself an extra day when it comes to these Weekly Wraps, releasing them on Sunday's instead of Saturday's. This will allow extra time to balance my day job and offer some more detailed weekly content. I have found that after 6 weeks off over summer, it is taking a bit of time to get back into a daily routine. But, I am trying to listen to those podcasts during my commute and while running, and reading in my downtime before and after work.
The extra day certainly came in handy this week as I felt there was a lot I could have written about. From the social and environmental justice fuelled Met Gala, to the new report on greenwashing, published by Eco-Age and the Geneva Centre for Business and Human Rights (which I hope to delve into next week).
But for this wrap up I have chosen to include a review of two online Q&A sessions that I attended during the week, which focused on the topics of consumerism and the second hand clothing market. I have also included some suggested reading related to buying less, and the need for fashion to find its conscience. I have ended by recommending a short podcast on the topic of books (following on from last week's wrap).
Take a watch
I am a huge fan of Aja Barber. While I feel like Aja could talk for hours on the topic of the fashion industry (her knowledge and experience is incredible), I could also listen to her for hours, no problem.
The Q&A Consumed:Colonialism, Climate Change & Consumerism in the Fashion Industry is timely given the release of her book on the same topic (available for pre-order now). The discussion was so engaging, it even struck the attention of my other half, who ended up sitting through the hour discussion with me. Sadly however, the recording is only available for a week. Therefore, while I could easily dedicate an entire post to what I learnt from the discussion, for the purpose of this wrap I have shared some of the points I found most interesting and useful below.
We must slow down! It seems super obvious, but everything comes back to putting our foot on the brakes, and taking the time to investigate our consumption habits. Plus this is something we can all do, and at any price point.
If in doubt, start small!
You will probably have more success with the smaller brand producing 100,000 items as opposed to millions. Not only are the smaller brands more likely to offer better quality items, but when you engage with the brand (for example on social media), you will probably be speaking to the owner. Voicing your opinion to H&M probably won’t do much.
Spend that little bit extra if you can. Monopolies drive out competition (think Walmart). Therefore, by giving your money to these monopolies you are only giving them more resources to drive away any (more sustainable and ethical) competition.
Until fast fashion brands stop over-producing they will never be truly sustainable. They need to focus on de-growth first.
The current system is one of outsourcing. This usually involves paying as little as possible (rarely upfront) to countries on the other side of the world, and getting away with it.
When the pandemic hit, the inequalities in this system were really brought to the fore. Unpaid orders were cancelled, and there was nothing legally binding to force brands to do the right thing and pay up (for more on this be sure to check out Remake). This is despite many billionaire brand owners being in positions to comfortably pay what was owing, and still being able to get on with their day.
Fast fashion has made us think that disposability is normal. As a result, we aren't valuing our clothing.
We need to learn to value all clothing the same! You aren't going to come across mountains of Louis Vuitton or Chanel garments in landfill.
Consumerism has been further normalised by media. You only have to consider the movie makeover scene (for example, Clueless, Pretty Woman, She’s All That, Princess Diaries, Devil Wear Prada, or Grease). These movies all involve a downtrodden, oppressed character getting new clothes, and instantly being treated differently by society.
We manage to take every event and push as much consumerism as possible into it (think hen's and buck's parties, weddings, baby showers) all to the detriment of the planet and our wallet.
We are producing 200 billion items of clothing, but the world only has a population of 8 billion people. We can just leave these numbers here for us all to think about.
As an ex-fast fashion shopper herself, Aja has a way of not making you feel guilty. Instead she informs us why we should care about fashion, and how we can unpick how we are participating in the system. I love her recommendation that in order to enact change we should begin by identifying where our strengths lie, and what we can realistically focus on. In doing so, we will feel more empowered, and therefore more willing to go above and beyond!
The hour and a half Q&A Solidarity in the Secondhand Supply Chain hosted by The OR Foundation and Fashion Revolution unpacks some of the social and environmental issues within the global secondhand fashion supply chain. This conversation is timely given we are in the midst of Second Hand September, and the growing importance of achieving a circular economy.
Liz Ricketts, co-founder and director of OR Foundation, begins the discussion by pointing out that second hand clothing is often thought of as charity, but it is a business involving a nuanced supply chain. This engaging and at times heated debate goes on to describe second hand clothing using words like "access", "opportunity" and "problematic", before delving into everything from economics, the selection process, the challenge of dealing with waste, to the concept of privilege.
Take a read
The Guardian article Fashion faces a stark choice: stop flogging cheap clothes or go out of style looks at how the word fashion has gone from VIP status to being considered a dirty word, as it has become synonymous with everything that is wrong with the modern world (e.g. climate crisis, global inequality, overconsumption).
As the article highlights, there is a dire need to get the pendulum swinging in the right direction again (away from fast and cheap), and for fashion to find its conscience, and get back in vogue.
September. A month where us Northern hemisphere-ers are faced with back-to-school (or work), cooling temperatures as Autumn kicks in, and the downhill run to Christmas. This time of the year can fuel (over)consumption.
The Fast Company article How to buy nothing proposes just that - “What if we resist the urge to shop, and instead choose to buy nothing at all for a season?”. While the article certainly provides some great reasons and tips for slowing down our consumption, stopping altogether is no mean feat. However, if this idea is of interest, I would maybe recommend starting small and building from there. Sometimes these challenges can be met with feelings of guilt or failure if you slip or cheat, and obviously we want to avoid this. We don’t want to be discouraged. So maybe start with something as simple as aiming for one month of buying nothing, or simply opting to only buying second hand if you do need something.
The goal at the end of the day, is to slow down, and be more mindful when it comes to our consumption.
Take a listen
Last week I mentioned that I am all about the physical book. Maybe it's a sentimental thing, or simply not wanting to look at a screen any more than I have too. But when it comes to purchasing my next read, I am doing my best to avoid heading straight to the convenient, and affordable Amazon. Instead opting for second hand.
Following on from this, I thought I would share this great 16 minute episode of Everyday Ethical with Bethany Austin, titled Are books or eReaders better for the environment? that I stumbled across this week. This episode covers a lot in a short time, looking at both sides of the story (physical verses electronic):
How you do your reading:
Physical books: Have you ever considered the physical waste associated with books, from manufacturing, publishing to disposal.
E-books: They seem like the obvious solution to waste and over-production. However, it is worth factoring in the electricity used for manufacturing, the plastic materials (which won't biodegrade), and the inability to share (legally anyway).
Where you buy your books:
Amazon: Sure it is super convenient, and affordable, but most of us are aware that Amazon doesn't have the best track record when it comes to being environmentally friendly, transparent, or ethical. Plus they are taking business away from independent book stores.
Local library: Yes, libraries still exist, and we should do what we can to ensure they stick around. Library books are free, and go a long way in reducing waste. Often they offer e-books also.
Once you’re finished with your books:
There is absolutely no reason to toss out your read books! Pass them on, whether that be to family or friends, charity shop, or a school.
Please GET IN TOUCH or leave me a comment. I would love to know what you have been reading, listening or watching this week.