Know Your Clothes: Stay Informed in the Age of Misinformation
If ever there was a perfect example of our society’s exceeding consumerist mentality, it’s Black Friday – the annual day that sees all types of shops and establishments offer great promotions and insane discounts. The day that sees hordes and hordes of – often hysteric and hyper-greedy – people storm the shopping malls just a day after having sincerely thanked the universe for all they have been blessed with.
The intoxicating rush many people feel as they literally hunt down the best deals, can cause them to get so swept up in the moment, they barely take a second to truly study their haul and consider the textiles, systems and working conditions they are buying into. When those alleged, super-saving deals are on the clock, it can be easy to choose buck-saving efficiency over morals and, ironically enough, the looming holidays are partially to blame.
The Black Friday and Christmas shopping extravaganza forms part of the very definition of fast fashion – i.e. a quick and far from conscious approach to clothes shopping. Distracted by flashing promotional signs and 3 for 1 deals, shoppers are lead further away from practicing textile awareness and mindful consumption. In fact, we are subjected to so much subliminal messaging in our day to day lives, we don’t even realize how they affect our ability to make wise and educated purchases, rather than what we perceive to be good choices.
As painful as it is to acknowledge and accept that we are a society led by advertising in every aspect of our lives, this is where we’re at. Plenty of studies having shown that the advertising industry notoriously spins its own truths, regardless of the impact on our health and well-being. Hence, it is hardly surprising that, now that we have access to all sources of information with one single click, we find ourselves confused by the amount of misinformation out there regarding the daily purchasing choices we make: from the food we buy to the clothes we wear.
Although it may seem that many of our favourite retail stores are taking eco-conscious initiatives, the truth behind their advertising campaigns for mindful materials and production processes isn’t always as positive as they make it out to be. Remember when we all started buying soft drinks and food products labeled 0% added fat or sugar because the world of marketing had us believe they were healthier alternatives for us? Well, the fashion industry is no different and often leads us to believe in half-truths about the going-ons backstage, so to speak. Therefore, in this day and age of misinformation, it is vital for you to weed out the commercial lies from the hard truths.
Know the Difference: Cotton vs Organic Cotton
If you couldn’t resist the urge to browse through various popular online clothing shops on Black Friday, you may have come to recognize that the cheap-fabric trend persists – and that is rather frightening considering we are entering a new decade and a big part of the world’s population is currently raising awareness by ways of Fridays for Future. Even retailers that are considered to stock garments of a higher quality than the super low-cost variety of shops are prone to using polyester as their main material. And knowing what impact polyester has on the environment, that’s rather shocking.
Anyone with a flair for fashion and an ounce of health-consciousness learns to shop by material pretty quickly, with natural textiles such as cotton, linen and hemp always having been the favoured and most versatile option in terms of clothes and apparel. But it’s not just the material in itself we should consider, but the process of production and how it affects our planet. So, even though your t-shirt might be labeled 100% cotton, it is not to say that it is 100% organic cotton, the difference being in how the material was produced. When you’re buying organic cotton, you can rest assured that no pesticides and fertilizers were used, so it is therefore the better choice not just for the environment but yourself too.
Shopping isn’t a relaxing experience for everyone, on the contrary – some people are downright stressed by the experience. Adding extra stress factors by examining labels and studying textiles can make it all the more challenging, but it’s worthwhile. Do your research before you do the fieldwork by looking into the best, environmentally friendly textiles affordable to you and where to find them. Just as with everything practice makes perfect and you’ll soon develop an eye and a feel for the highest quality with the lowest environmental impact.
Know Your Shops: Fact Check
One of the most important marketing techniques for businesses is a good brand story. It’s all about building a personal relationship with clients and giving them the feeling that they form part of the company’s history and future, and that they are being offered complete transparency. This is especially true when it comes to meeting customers’ needs by ways of choosing just the right language to sell your product – even if it is vague and not always 100% true.
To be sure you are, indeed, buying into a more sustainable approach to fashion even by ways of popular retailers, you need to learn how to read between the lines and spot the porkies. How trustworthy can a brand’s sales pitch be if there are no outside entities or studies to back up their claim? You will quickly learn to distinguish the brands that are rallying and supporting real change, from the ones who are simply trying to piggyback on a wave of trends without putting in the actual work.
The super popular Swedish retailer, H&M, is a prime example of a fast fashion chain looking to make a difference – and they can back up all their claims with statistics, planning and progress reports. Having been named one of the best ethical companies in the world by the Ethisphere Institute, H&M aims to use 100% recycled or sustainable materials by 2030, and while that is still a while away, we can already see them setting the ball in motion as part of the Better Cotton Initiative and with having initiated their own recycling program. Is your favourite low-cost retailer just as transparent? Check before you shop!