The Conscious Consumer

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The Conscious Consumer

Like many female twenty-something city-slickers, I am completely enamoured by clothes, accessories, shoes – the entire gamet of fashion offerings! In my late teens and early twenties, I subscribed to three fashion magazines, shopped at least once a week and religiously followed the season’s latest fashion trends. And I would have continued this excessive indulgent lifestyle had it not been for some eye-opening life experiences…

First, my worst nightmare occurred… I went to a birthday party and there was this girl wearing the exact same dress I was wearing! Although I was 16 years old and tried (unconvincingly) to reassure myself that I looked better than the other girl (even though we were wearing identical dresses) this experience had a life long impact. I banned fashion chain stores from my retail repertoire. These included Sportsgirl, Portmans, Miss Shop, Esprit and a list of other well-known fashion stores. I then naturally leaned towards purchasing recycled and vintage fashion because it offered uniqueness and individuality without the expensive price tag! I’m glad that I learnt early on that fast fashion wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Several years later, I travelled to the Philippines… the country of my birth, where the shock of extreme poverty and the plight of exploited workers buried my naivety for good. I went, I saw, I cried. My heart ached and my mind boggled. My western upbringing had taught me that material success and the accumulation of things was good. And yet I saw that this was an illusion. In reality, my western upbringing had taught me to be greedy and selfish. I started contributing some of my savings to a pool of funds that my father would then send back to our Filipino relatives via Western Union. It was about this time that I reviewed my own personal beliefs on the idea of capitalism…

And then I went to China… at the time, my business partner and I wanted to manufacture our own line of clothes. We visited clothing manufacturers and wholesalers. We got to meet business owners. We got to meet workers. My experience there gave me some hope that the fashion business and industry is changing. But still not enough. Some of the workers still work 7 days a week, 10 hrs per day! We still haven’t made one single garment and it looks like we as a partnership never will, but if it ever happens, I will ask to manufacture with sustainable fabrics and work only with factories that are on the same page as me and care about their worker’s rights!

So my advice… to become a conscious consumer you must ask questions. Never stop asking questions about where things are made, what things are made from, who made them etc etc etc. Keep an open mind. Try not to believe everything you read in the newspapers. Try not to believe everything you watch on TV. Try to avoid celebrity worship, hero worship and go out into the real world and live your life with eyes wide open!  And if not, I’ll at least save you the trouble of wasting time and money by stating that – no wrinkle cream will prevent wrinkles; buying a new car won’t make you look cool and it doesn’t matter what lip gloss you use, you will never get Angelina Jolie’s lips (without collagen anyway)!!

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