Superfluous Spending, Sales and Sustainability

By Safia Osoble

The season of excessive shopping has finally arrived. Black Friday recently passed, and the sales were… eye-wateringly unpleasant. This year during Black Friday, I limited myself to three articles of clothing, each an essential that I could see myself wearing countless times. The key question I ask myself when shopping is, “Do you actually like it? Or is it just a trend?” Many people, including myself, unconsciously buy a surplus of new articles of clothing because we see others wearing them. A couple months later, they will lie neglected in my closet. This is because fast fashion companies unethically mass-produce trending clothing items in order to reach the target audience. A lot of the time, they make a huge profit. We want to believe we are part of the brief, but fabulous, emerging movement or fad. We give no thought to the hard labour that created the item, and when it’s no longer trending, we won’t wear it anymore. 

Mass sale days such as Black Friday and Boxing Day are smoke and mirrors created to get us to spend a superfluous amount of money. Oftentimes, the “original” prices are hiked up and the “discount” is the standard price at other times of the year. Those bright red SALE signs and 50% OFF stickers intrigue shoppers enough to think, “I’m getting an amazing deal.” In reality, you’re not, and the average shopper is unaware of that. After thorough research, I realized that my suspicions were correct: sale days are truly a cheap trick to get consumers to spend more money. And what’s worse, we all fall for it. 

I love fashion and it’s a no-brainer that I love shopping! I was never an avid spender, but shopping was a fun pastime. Recently, however, I watched a clip from a 2015 documentary called “The True Cost” that changed my whole view on fashion, and suddenly it wasn’t just the swipe of a card. I’d visualize the tears on the face of the garment worker from Bangladesh as she explained the unfair wages and working system and felt unsettled: I was playing a part in these workers’ pain. Starting to maintain a sustainable fashion life was the next step for me. I discovered that “Good On You” is a great online resource to see how sustainable fashion companies are, and also offers great sustainable alternatives.

 I’ve also participated in secondhand shopping on mobile apps such as “Depop”. Depop is a mobile app that serves as an online secondhand store. Some people sell brand new clothes or even designer pieces. The most entertaining part of the whole process is searching for the pieces. I remain grateful that I can still find some decently priced items, since crazy resellers have become the majority of the platform’s users over the last couple years since I downloaded Depop. Nevertheless, I haven’t looked back. Shopping secondhand drastically reduces your fashion footprint. Not only are you avoiding fast fashion, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. There are many more pros than cons! 

Knitting and sewing your own clothing is another alternative, referred to as slow fashion. The quality of clothing has dropped in the last decade, and unless you’re paying a hefty price for an essential item, the quality of your item will inevitably reduce with time. As your own designer, you can choose the materials you work with. Two options may be acrylic yarn, made from plastic, or high-quality wool. The choice of material may seem obvious, but I’ve noticed that many store-bought knits use the latter, which is treated with chemicals that may include formaldehyde and releases some amount of these chemicals when the item is washed. Making your own clothes can be pricey, time-consuming, and requires a skill that you have to learn, all of which I’ve noticed since I started knitting some clothes. Designing and making clothes yourself will force you to reflect on the work done by the makers of your clothes, whether at fast fashion companies or companies that make high-quality items. 

I definitely don’t want to shame you for your passions. If you enjoy shopping and participating in big sales, do it! I am here simply to educate you on a topic that most people are not aware of, because I believe this is something everyone should know about. Fast fashion is a plague on our planet; a significant number of these clothes end up in landfills in developing countries. It is up to you to decide if you want to take part in the growing, consumer-driven movement for change.