Consumer or Customer?


I recently watched the film The True Cost which is a documentary focusing on how the majority of our clothes are made and the price the planet, employees and communities pay for our need to consume things all the time. The film has made me seriously reconsider my purchasing habits, we’re consistently surrounded by advertising shouting at us ‘buy this’ or ‘you’re not cool unless you own this’ or ‘you need this latest fast fashion item’, well actually NO WE DON’T!

While I was watching the film I felt so guilty for just mindlessly buying things without considering where it came from or what will happen to it when I get rid of it. I personally don’t like shopping, I buy all my clothes online and I feel like I don’t buy that much stuff, yet when a donation bag is left in my letter box I’m usually able to fill it. Sometimes I wear an item once or twice then decide I don’t like it or it’s really similar to something I already own and don’t need two of the same thing, and I actually don’t feel bad because I’m donating it. Not any more! Only something like 25% of the clothes we donate are sold in op shops and the rest are sent to landfill or overseas to third world countries, even there it ends up in landfill because it’s simply too much. Every season we buy more clothes, when they’re on sale we think we’re getting such a bargain we just have to get it. Do we actually need it? No probably not, but we’ve been conditioned to buy new things all the time, advertisers are doing a great job, we’re continuously updating our wardrobes, but at what cost?

We almost expect things to be ridiculously cheap now, we’re used to tops being $5-$20 and when they cost more we think we’re being ripped off. The big companies screw down the manufacturers so they can keep their margins intact, but who do the manufacturers then screw? The workers. The owner of Zara is now the second richest person in the world with a net worth of 69.1 BILLION dollars! Some workers who make these clothes are working in conditions so bad they are killed, they don’t wear protective gear, run off chemicals from production are washed into the drinking water causing many health issues in the communities. The governments in these countries don’t improve anything because they want to keep the business, if they make the minimum wage higher and improve working conditions they will need to charge more than the current ridiculously low prices, causing the big companies to source it elsewhere.

Many of the workers are being paid $60usd a month which isn’t a living wage, to make it a living wage it would add and additional 3 cents to the cost of each item of clothing, three cents. Would you pay an additional three cents with the knowledge that the person who made your clothes is living a better life? Shit yes, we ALL would! Or perhaps the owners of the big companies can take a small cut on their margins, one person being worth $69.1  billion while others are struggling to buy food and working 15 hours a day in terrible conditions, doesn’t that just boil your blood?

I’ll admit it was heartbreaking to watch the film but I’m so glad I did, I think every student in Australia who is studying fashion or design should watch this movie as part of their course, maybe then we would have more fair trade options in this country. I think every consumer in Australia should watch the film, you would be hard pressed not to change your purchasing habits after seeing the impact our choices have on the planet and the lives of others. One of the absolute easiest things we can do is just buy less, buy double the quality and half as much. Don’t just consume but treasure belongings and make them last, if you want to take it a step further then buy organic cotton and fair trade. Say fuck you to the companies with no morals and only the bottom line in mind, say thank you to the companies doing the right thing by spending your money there. Be a customer not a consumer.

Amy x

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