How often do you hear you need to shop ethically and sustainably? If you’re anything like me, you try your best. Sometimes, you just can’t afford it. Or maybe, you just can’t find that item anywhere else. You may not even know where to look! Trust me, I’ve been there. I am there!
Fashion trends are hard to follow to begin with, especially as a woman. We’re expected to set trends while also shop sustainably and fix and address any problem that comes up while doing so. Trying to find cute summer tops while also having the weight of being a woman on your shoulders is difficult. How am I supposed to do so many of these things at once?
People love to preach about refraining from fast fashion, but fast fashion is the entire industry, or well enough close to it. Everyone knows the Chinese Company Shein is a product of fast fashion, but so are other major fashion corporations: Zara, NIKE, Urban Outfitters, etc. If we hold one company or brand accountable, why not hold them all? Why do we shame people for shopping at Shein, but not Nike? The answer? Capitalism. People with lower incomes cannot afford sustainable brands, and they’re forced to shop with companies that fit into their budget. Sometimes, this means supporting companies that do not ethically create or sell products to consumers.
The issue is not with the individual, but that’s what corporations want you to think. If they can convince you that it is your responsibility, they can subsequently persuade you to spend money that goes into their pockets. You may be unaware of sustainability issues with major companies, so if they can get you to boycott other companies and come to theirs they get money anyway. Corporations don’t care about the people who need more affordable options, they simply care about their money. Making consumers feel bad is what they’re banking on even though they’re the ones who can, and should, fix the problem via paying employees adequately, ensuring safe working environments, etc.
Fashion corporations can fix this major issue. So then why do they try to frame the individual as the culprit?
The consumer as an individual cannot fix the environmental impacts of fast fashion and product waste. But could we fix it together? In groups large enough, maybe. The call for enforcement and advocacy of environmental laws and guidelines against fast fashion is what we can demand from those in power in our retrospective areas. I’m not in the slightest advocating to go spend a couple hundred dollars at Shein. However, what I am saying is to be aware of what you as an individual can do. It is unrealistic to expect a single person to re-shape their entire lifestyle sustainably all at once. Starting small helps, incorporating sustainable products into your day to day, or reducing the amount you spend at some of these fashion companies can really build up over time. Repurposing items, buying second-hand, and making your own clothes can help with individual responsibility as well.
Wanting to keep up with popular fashion trends is normal and no one can blame consumers for this. However, holding one’s consumer habits accountable is the best option.
If you have the money to buy sustainably, do so. If not, do the best you can to incorporate sustainable living into your life. Your health and survival is important, just like the Earth’s. Humans go hand in hand with our mother planet, and we must remember that when we take care of it, it takes care of us too.