The Christmas holidays are around the corner. It’s arguably the best time of the year to spend money and spoil ourselves, our family and friends with new shoes, jackets, shirts and dresses. Which brings us to an important issue – fast fashion. “Fast fashion” is a term used to describe clothing that is produced cheaply and quickly and often at a lower quality. To many, it’s cheap enough to seem disposable. However, that’s not the case.
The fashion industry is known to be one of the most problematic functioning industries. Achievements of this industry include: being the third largest polluting industry after food and construction, having some of the world’s poorest working conditions and lowest paid workers, ripping off small businesses and stealing designs from independent artists, to name a few.
It takes just four days, according to Oxfam International (2018), for the CEO of one of the top five fashion brands to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh would earn in an entire lifetime. Other examples include Adidas, who owes their Cambodian employees $12 million in unpaid wages (Clean Clothes Campaign, 2021). SHEIN, notorious for stealing designs from independent designers and mass-producing them in sweatshops, uses materials so cheap that their products last for about two washes.
The list doesn’t end here. But why did I tell you all of that? The goal of my speech is not to bring down certain brands or shame people from ever buying from them. No, that’s not my goal. My goal is to raise awareness in hope that we can all be more mindful of where our money goes to and make more informed purchase decisions.
The easiest thing we could do is to buy less. We don’t want to spend $10 on that really cool discounted top just for it to go out of trend after two months, sit in a landfill for the next million years and outlive us all.
Another option is to shop second-hand, otherwise known as thrifting. It saves money, reduces wastes. Or if you’re a crafty person, you could consider upcycling – sewing, designing, turning old clothes into something you would actually wear, or making the outfit you wear to prom (if you’re a crazy person like me).
But that’s not the main point. My point is, there are lots of options out there. We can choose how we want to spend our money, where we want to spend it and what kind of businesses we want to support.
It doesn’t only apply to clothes. Every day, we can decide where we want to invest our energy, who we want to spend time on, what impact our decisions have on other people and the planet. Life is short, resources are limited. And sometimes, we have to learn how to filter out the things that are not worth our time and energy.
I am not going to end this speech with an emotional quote or tell you that the true essence of Christmas is about spending time with the people we love rather than spending money, because I’m sure everyone has heard that a bajillion times. So instead, I’m going to tell you that you can spend as much money as you like, it’s Christmas after all! But hopefully, as you’re doing that, though you may not remember this speech, you will remember that we have the option to know how the products we buy affect the issues we care about, and you will remember that we always have the option to do better and be more responsible about our consumption. I wish you all a Happy Christmas.