The True Cost

If you were to look through your closet right this moment, what would you see? I know that I would see the typical brand names that we are constantly surrounded by in our local malls and shopping streets. Brands like Forever21, Topshop, and Zara hang off hangers in my closet and are neatly folded in my dresser drawers. Clothes that I would proudly show off and brands that I would preach about to friends don’t make me feel so great anymore.

I’ve mentioned before that I was somewhat of a binge shopper. Shopping was basically a hobby for me. I would head to the mall on Saturdays to browse shops and make purchases that I didn’t really need to make. It was all kind of a rush and brought a short-lived level of satisfaction that would quickly fade as soon as the next Saturday rolled around. And the shopping cycle would continue. While I was roaming these shops and mindlessly swiping my card, not once did it ever occur to me to question the true cost of my clothing.

When you walk into a shop like H&M and see a top for $15, the first thing that comes to mind is the bargain price. But we never look at the reason behind the low-cost of the clothing from these types of fast fashion brands. We know that child labor exists and choose to ignore the issue because it doesn’t directly affect us. It’s not like we have to work 12 hour days, sewing clothes for as low as $1 a day.

The truth is that almost everyone in the Western World is guilty of mindless shopping. Like me, people spend their Saturdays walking around malls and trying on clothes in Zara and Topshop, but never stop to question the origins of the clothing. We’ve become used to seeing labels like “Made in China” and “Made in India” etched into the tags of our clothing. We realize that someone in a sweatshop slaved to make this, but still carry it to the checkout counter and buy it. And at the same time, we can’t be blamed for it either because it’s become a social norm and fast fashion is sadly the most accessible option.

A couple of months ago I watched a documentary called The True Cost and never have I felt so guilty about my actions as I did after I finished watching this. It brings up shocking points about the fashion industry and brought to light things that I never knew. For one, I wasn’t aware that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Or that, the world consumes around 80 billion pieces of clothing each year and 13 million tons of clothing ends up in landfills each year. When I learned of all this, I couldn’t believe it. Not once had it ever occurred to me that clothes could be the reason for so much environmental and social damage.

“Successful brands of the future care about people, not branding.”

Everything that sits in my closet right now is basically a product of misery. My every purchase contributes to a system that thinks it is okay to let a 12-year old child make my clothes. Although I paid a low price for that top from a typical fast fashion store, a child in Bangladesh paid the highest price of all.

I love fashion. It’s something that gives me confidence and allows me to express my creativity. But this isn’t only about fashion. It’s about the people who make our clothes and the social and environmental impacts of fast fashion. It’s about an industry that exploits the basic rights of human workers and fills their pockets while others suffer.

I strongly believe that sustainable and ethical fashion is the future. Yes, we are surrounded by fast fashion, but we can make a difference by choosing to make conscious changes in our shopping habits. We are capable of living without fast fashion and just because its everywhere doesn’t mean you need to support or buy from it. We just need to think and reflect on our current practices. Change will follow from there on.

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