What is it? Why is it important? How can we implement it starting today?
Slow-purchasing. Sustainability. Greenwashing. Ethical consumerism. These are all buzzwords that have been thrown around a lot recently. But what does it all mean and what exactly does it take to be a conscious consumer? Conscious consumerism does not need to be overwhelming or complicated. Let’s break it down.
Starting With the Why
Why is it so important that as consumers we are ‘conscious’? The world simply cannot sustain the amount of clothing that manufacturers are currently churning out every year. Annually, we produce approximately 80 to 100 billion pieces of clothing, with approximately 3 out of 5 of the garments that we buy ending up in landfill. The surge of fast fashion in the early 2000s and the rise of the likes of Primark saw consumers buying 400% more items of clothing than they had just 2 decades earlier. Fashion seasons traditionally run at four per year – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. However, the fast fashion calendar currently runs at 52 ‘micro-seasons’ per year. You can only imagine the poor-quality fabrics employed for this, not to mention the waste and the low-cost labour. It stands to reason that we absolutely do not need this volume of clothing and cannot utilise it in practical terms. The fast fashion movement has resulted in consumers infected by boredom and an underappreciation for the garments they already own; they’re on a perpetual treadmill, chasing the next trend and they shamelessly waste pieces due to the unreasonably low price tags and the extremely high turnover. As a movement, fast fashion is utterly unsustainable, and therefore, we need to collectively wake up. Enter: consciousness.
Conscious Consumerism is the act of being thoughtful and non-impulsive with your purchasing. It is about slowing down and thinking clearly about what you already have and what you actually need. It is about buying from brands that use ethical practices and sustainable or surplus fabrics. As a society, we are too accustomed to the snatch-and-grab approach as we cram as much activity into our time as possible. But the Covid-climate has forced us all to slow down, and although 2020 has been a challenging and confusing time for all of us, the silver lining is this: we have been encouraged to support local businesses, reassess how and where we spend our time and money and further open our eyes to fast fashion and unethical consumerism. Conscious consumerism is about being more mindful of where your money is being spent, and the quality of product you are getting, as well as the business you are supporting, and the conditions in which their employees are working.
Advocates for Sustainable Practice
At the forefront of the sustainable fashion movement are luxury reseller giants Vestiaire Collective and Hardly Ever Worn It, and sustainable activist company Good On You. There are also household name designers who are actively pushing for a better fashion industry, including Virgil Abloh who recently launched a campaign alongside Evian to find the next big sustainable designers, and the infamous Vivienne Westwood, who uses recycled or eco-friendly fabrics and environmentally sustainable production methods within her fashion line. We are seeing a rise in initiatives, with the likes of Farfetch and Browns Fashion launching conscious and pre-loved ranges, and Selfridges having just announced their fashion rental system.
It is also incredibly exciting to see the rise of more start-up brands who are advocates for ethical and sustainable practice. A few truly innovative companies who are being proactive in carving out a better industry include Conscious Curating (luxury sustainable fashion services), Ebloggers (reselling of bloggers clothing and promotional gifts) and Know The Origin (although not a start-up, this amazing company allows you to shop consciously across lifestyle, fashion and beauty). In an age of the internet and dare it be said, 5G, there is really no excuse for buying carelessly and failing to browse the ever-growing list of companies who have a transparent and proactive sustainable ethos in place.
So, how exactly can we become more conscious consumers today? Well, start by noticing the companies and brands around you who are being transparent in their sustainable efforts. Support independent designers, artists and creatives who are masters in their craft and who use the finest fabrics. Be open to thrifting and to buying pre-loved. Think twice before making a purchase. Look after what you already have. Ensure that the pieces you love and for which you have worked so hard will serve you for a lifetime.