As Melania Trump, the laconic First Lady of the United States, moved into the White House with her progeny, the headlines were awash with the latest developments. No, it was not the promise of nuclear war. It was but the mesmerising fact that a tee-shirt worn by the youngest of the Trumps, on that fateful day, already sold out.
The article in question is nothing spectacular, and indeed may border on the tacky side of things. A simple grey tee-shirt, with a blue border on the sleeves and neck; and the legend ‘The Expert’ written in a chunky font and the same blue colour. Needless to say, the event has spurned some interesting and tongue-in-cheek memes.
And on the other side of the globe, reports have emerged of how some major international labels; H&M, Zara and Marks and Spencer; are sourcing viscose, a semi-snythetic fibre, from heavily-polluting factories. Viscose is considered to be a more ‘sustainable’ fabric when compared to cotton and polyester. But sadly, this may not be the case; as its production is highly chemical-intensive, and the toxic substances used in its manufacture severely endanger the lives of those involved in the process.
So who, or what exactly is to be responsible here? Obviously, both the viscose producers and the buyers (the fashion and apparel companies) need to step up their game and doubly ensure their commitment to acting more responsibly. At the same time, it is important to address the other elephant in the room: the omnipresent problem of fast fashion.
Apparel companies are put under increasing pressure to identify the key trends from runway shows every spring, fall and the like; and then present their derivatives, at a mass-produced scale, to the public. And this sadly encourages and exacerbates unsustainable consumerist practices.
In the UK for example, a quick visit to your nearest charity shop will show that they are usually inundated with offers of clothes. While this can be a touching reminder of people’s generosity, it also makes one wonder; how did we get into this position in the first place? Why are people giving away (hear throwing away) items of perfectly good clothing to replace them with newer alternatives? Is our obsession with vanity and looking beautiful destroying the planet? Possibly, but there is more here than meets the eye.
If we are to address and rectify fast fashion, how may we set about it? I realise that we are all complicit in this to some extent; and I know I am for one. The last two weeks made me really crave to replenish my wardrobe, as I have detailed earlier. But did that make me necessarily happier? Not so much as I would have thought.
This makes for an interesting case in point. One way of combating the consumerist monster is by realising, spiritually or otherwise, that you don’t really need so many items after all. You can understand that the initial feeling of desire or covetousness you had towards something will dissipate. And that will be a relief. As Buddhism so beautifully points out, it is unwise desire that causes our suffering in the first place.
You can also make it a point to both re-use and recycle your clothes. This is something that I pride myself on having integrated into my life. Ever since I was little, an item of clothing would pass through several cycles in its life. A jumper or tee that was to be worn for special occasions, would, after the years and washes, be worn on a casual basis around the house. Once it became even more threadbare, it would be used as sleepwear. Some of my tee shirts were worn for more than a decade while following this plan!
By being careful and gentle with my clothes, I can also ensure that they remain in good quality, and can hence be hand-me-downs for other members of my family, if they are happy to accept them. If not, a happy recipient and a loving wardrobe can always be found, whether it is by distributing amongst friends or by giving to charity.
And similarly, you can integrate your wardrobes too! For sharing is caring. In today’s day and age, the lines between gendered fashion are being increasingly blurred out. The time is nigh for jumping in with your friends and matching and mixing up outfits. You will spend less, learn to share, and have a lot of fun as well!
© Copyright June 2017
The insights discussed above may be utilised, adapted or built upon for personal, academic or commercial purposes provided that due credit is given to thesmilingtoucan as the originator of the work.