Ethical Consumerism is an Oxymoron

One of the things that we have struggled with whilst advocating for ethical fashion is the fact that we are promoting brands for consumption, which in itself is an issue. If we really want to see a difference in the world, we need to consume less, not more. How can consumerism ever be ethical? Even the word consume fills the mind with images of gluttony and excess; things we need to be avoiding if we hope to keep the planet alive.

Personally I was (and still am in many ways) super anti-consumer, I honestly thought all consumerism was evil and that we must all stop shopping. Down with late-stage capitalism! But then I thought, no, think of how many people would be jobless. It’s estimated about 75 million people worldwide work in the fashion industry alone. That’s insane. That’s three times the Australian population. If everyone somehow miraculously stopped shopping for clothes tomorrow there would be a lot of people suffering, and it would be those in developing countries, who bear the brunt of the labour, that suffer the most. Meanwhile in the Western world people might stop and say “Oh poor them, that’s sad”, without ever taking responsibility for global inequity in the first place.

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With minimalism gaining popularity, the Global Financial Crisis fresh in our memory and the extreme pollution of the planet, we should all know by now that consumerism is bad. Usually, it involves exploitation of the environment and people for the biggest profit margin. Over time corporations have become so powerful they hold more sway in government than many civilians, or even more power than governments themselves. It might seem easy to reject consumption, but a lot of the time we do it without even realising. It has become so ingrained in our everyday lives it can be difficult to go a day without buying something. It is quite difficult to live without food and there isn’t enough time/space/resources for us to all have our own edible gardens.

If we have to consume to survive, which, lets face it, is a biological fact, then we should at least ensure our money is going somewhere it is causing the least amount of harm. When it comes to the fashion industry, there are so many innovative people out there working on recycling waste products into reusable materials; like Girlfriend Collective who make leggings out of recycled plastics, or Friends ‘N’ Stuff, working on reusing tyre tubing to make bags and Elle Evans who makes swimwear from recycled waste fabric byย Econyl, Elvis & Kresse, making bags from old fire hose, Emi & Eve, making jewellery from bullets and bombs left over from war. That means that as you consume, you are actually re-consuming some of the planet’s former waste.

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More people are also turning to up-cycling; getting further life from a product by repairing it or redesigning it like Pim Purvis from Hilltribe House who takes apart traditional clothes to create modern masterpieces. Other enterprise’s are ensuring off-cut materials (left-overs of other brands) are utilised to make clothes and bags rather than left for scraps, like Tonlรฉ, BeeKeeper Parade and Dorsu. All of these brands have the added bonus of treating their employees with respect, up-skilling them to ensure upward mobility, healthy working environments and living wages.

We are choosing to support these brands because, quite frankly, we believe they deserve more coverage and more customers than big brands like Nike, or H&M, or Lululemon. We want to show the world that there are alternative ways to produce clothing. We fully encourage people to buy secondhand, to stop shopping and only use what they already have in their closets, to repair their stuff instead of throwing it away. But eventually there may come a time when you may need to buy clothes, and when that time comes, you’ll know where to go.

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We believe the world should consume less and consume well (if that’s even possible).


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