The current problem
‘20% storewide’, ‘buy 1 get one free’, ‘40% of selected’…. Sound familiar? As a society, we are constantly bombarded with this retail advertising. In New Zealand, advertising is everywhere now, especially in the bigger cities. Most of us are now exposed to hundreds of different ads every single day and there is no escaping it. Turning off the TV or avoiding newspapers no longer works, as advertising has spread to the internet, billboards, and even buses and bus shelters. We are in the age of advertising, where we are continually getting pestered until we give in. Big brands will continue to do this too, as it works. Why would they stop doing something that is working so well? As much as we try to avoid and resist, we appear to be hardwired to give into advertising techniques, even if we don’t need anything!
All this advertising is driving consumption to levels never seen before. The mere presence of shopping malls and mega centers shows how out of control our spending is. Millions of dollars are spent to construct massive buildings and carparks. These are then filled with mainly cheap junk that people will buy and be rid of in a few months. Theoretically, shopping malls should not be able to survive. People shouldn’t be purchasing enough to keep them viable, but we are. Why? Because we believe shopping and buying the next big thing will make us happy. Shopping malls are all about convenience; and people love convenience.
This increased consumption is leading to a much bigger problem. How do manufacturers keep up with the demand, and where are all these products coming from? Think ‘Made in China’ for most plastic and electrical products, or ‘Made in India or Pakistan’ for clothing, footwear and manchester. How often do you see these country labels? Negative views are held towards anything made in these countries now and the products hold the stigma of being cheap and nasty. This contrasts to times past, where products from China, such as their pottery, were renowned for being the best in the world. How times have changed!
More importantly, these origin labels should serve as a warning. For a lot of these products, the ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in India’ etc label should be read as ‘Made with cheap or forced labour, occasionally child labour too, in poor working conditions, out of inferior materials, and in ways that are destroying the environment.’ It’s blunt, but it is exactly what it is. We may choose to turn a blind eye to it, but the fact is that we are supporting these oppressive manufacturing processes when we choose to purchase these products. There are no two ways around it, and it all stems from our consumption!
How does change happen?
Okay, so advertising leads to demand and consumption, which leads to oppression. Therefore, we need to crack down on advertising and everything will improve, right? In all honesty, consumerism is now so entrenched in our culture that reducing advertising would barely make a difference. Instead, changing purchasing habits and focusing on ethical products is a way each of us can make a stand. Lets delve deeper into how this relates to ethical fashion.
I’ll start by saying that it’s hard to blame people for purchasing these cheap products. Most of the time, they are the easiest or only option available. Further, these products are much cheaper and hence we often don’t think twice about purchasing them. It’s easy to see why consumption is increasing. Further, ethical clothing is never going to be as cheap as fast fashion. That’s because you can’t fairly make a shirt to sell for $5.
The higher initial cost is like an investment. When you purchase ethical clothing, the products are better quality. They last longer, and therefore you do not need to replace them as often. In the long run, the cost will likely be similar, whilst at the same time avoiding a lot of waste. Buying ethical and being a conscious consumer is one of the most important things needed to combat over consumption.
For this movement to occur, a couple of key things need to happen. Firstly, we need to see a larger variety of more affordable ethical clothing available. Tummah Ethical Trade was created to be part of the solution. Our aim is to offer New Zealand consumers a wide range of Fair Trade organic clothing at very reasonable prices. We are currently scouring the globe looking for world leading brands that we believe will do well in New Zealand. Granted, our range is currently somewhat limited, but the more this movement grows the more we can offer consumers. Plus, our product ranges show that while we stock everyday essentials, we are also offering some on trend items that would not be out of place in both formal and social situations. We will continue to operate with the goal of providing New Zealanders with affordable ethical clothing.
You, the consumer, have your own part to play. It’s true that for growth we need sales, but there is something equally as important; exposure. There are a lot of people who are now opening their eyes to oppressive manufacturing techniques overseas, and thus want to change their purchasing habits. In general, people want to be more conscious in their consumption and decrease the waste they are creating. Many people are living in ignorance about the problems that exist, in regards to both over consumption and exploitation. We need your help to see the nation educated about the problems facing our consumeristic culture. Further, for those who are specifically seeking out affordable ethical clothing, we want them to know that we exist.
We encourage our customers to tell as many people as they can about Fair Trade products they come across. Not only to support our business, but all the businesses in New Zealand that are making a difference. At the end of the day, this is a movement that must be spread by consumers. Businesses will provide the facilities, we need consumers to make the most of them!
We all need certain things to survive and get through life. Sometimes we have to purchase, we can’t avoid that. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, or showing personality by what you wear. What I will say though is, next time you go to purchase, stop and think about it. Ask questions like ‘Do I really need this?’, ‘will i use it?’, and ‘how were these products made?’, and ‘were the people treated fairly?’
Over consumption is one of the worst epidemics in the world today. It is straining our planet and our wallets, and seeing countless workers exploited! Change needs to happen, and everyone has a part to play. At Tummah Ethical Trade, we are motivated to be a part of this change, and we encourage you to join us and tell others. We are dreaming of better retail market in New Zealand, and it starts now!
At the end of the day it’s okay to purchase; but please, be conscious in your consumption!