It’s A New Season, Let’s Shop: How Brands Encourage a Throwaway Culture

It’s A New Season, Let’s Shop: How Brands Encourage a Throwaway Culture

Abuja, Nigeria: Summer is here, and it means different things to different people. For students, it’s the much-needed break from school. For workers, it’s the time for that long-awaited vacation. And for most businesses, it is simply the time for increasing sales.

For me, it doesn’t represent much. Traditionally, seasons in my part of the world are classed as either rainy or dry. The “rainy season” lasts from April to October and the “dry season” takes over from October and runs to March the following year. And so, it goes on and on. The months which the West regard as summer are actually months of gut-wrenching rain in Nigeria, and at such times you have to be quite masochistic to even think of your bikini or a lazy day on the beach.

Still, there seems to be a unanimous agreement by every brand known to earth; from fashion or food, cars and tech to cram this concept of “summertime” down our throats. The tour operators and travel industry it seems, have decided that the only acceptable time to travel is during summer. And if by chance you don’t travel during this time, then something must be wrong with your life. The result is that July is the busiest month for air travel in the world. This summer, the domestic airlines’ industry is projected to experience growth primarily from ferrying passengers to beach destinations.

Other industries benefit too. As is to be expected, fashion is at the forefront of the it’s-summer-let’s-spend concept. Consumers are led to believe that they have to buy special shorts, dresses and sunglasses to fit in. The clothes quite naturally have to be made from specific “lightweight” fabrics to allow air to circulate and allow the skin to breathe. Then, of course, these summer items have to come in special colors, usually vibrant, tropical prints and bold hues. Then, and only then, can one enjoy summer. And the summer wardrobe you owned before this current season? No need to wear those, the brand’s marketing and advertising insinuates. Just let it all go and buy new ones for summer. And next year? Of course, this fabricated fashion dilemma repeats and you will buy new summer clothes all over again. Rinse and repeat, pay off credit card debt.

It's Summer, Let's Go Shopping- How Fashion Brands Encourage a Throwaway Culture

Related Post: How Advertising Has Contributed to Wasteful Consumption

Of particular interest to me though is this concept of the summer or beach body. Apparently, this is the socially acceptable body shape which you must possess in order to enjoy summer at the beach without being judged negatively. This concept has crept into the unwritten laws of many countries, mine included, so that now a staggering number of young people have come to associate the beach body with a particular body figure (you know the body type), shunning all the rest. We are gradually accepting that we are supposed to look a certain way, dress a certain way and travel to certain places for summer. Never mind that summer is actually not traditionally “African”.

'All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.' - Noam ChomskyClick To Tweet

This sort of mentality is several shades of wrong. On Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I am inundated with ads showing me what to buy, what to eat and how to look for this season. My Instagram stories are now replete with photos and videos of workout sessions with hashtags #summerishere and #summerbody. And I confess, I have found myself clicking on ads to learn the prices of the tank tops recommended by GQ as “summer essentials”. Even African fashion companies have adopted the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter calendar even though these seasons really are alien to us.

It's Summer, Let's Shop- How Fashion Brands Encourage a Throwaway Culture..

All these factors have led me to conclude that summertime is more than a season – it is a well-executed marketing strategy. It isn’t about the weather or the glorious sunshine, it’s about getting people to buy more. If I, in a country with no summer season, can be roped into making purchases for non-existent weather, what then becomes of the people who actually live in sunny areas that enjoy warm-hot temperatures?  

Related Post: Buy Me Once: The Online Shop That Only Sells Products That Last Forever

Whether in the US or in Nigeria, whether an actual summer or perceived summer, the feature common in all of this: summer spending. Whether in the form of gym memberships or buying cocktails at a beachside bar, whether buying sunscreen, or summer dresses and tropical shirts, whether flying to the Bahamas or renting an RV, during summer we spend a lot more than we need.

This is of course at the expense of the environment. The excess clothes people purchase and every extra straw they throw away after sipping their overpriced cocktails potentially harm the environment. It also doesn’t help that summer fashion purchases are marketed as fleeting items. In this modern throwaway society, we aren’t expected to hold on to these items past the season, they are to be enjoyed now, and disposed of and forgotten.

Related Post: I’m Starting to Think That Fashion May Never Be Sustainable. Here’s Why…

Despite all these, summer is traditionally something we look forward to. It is one of the few times in a year that people and families take a break, wind down and spend quality time together. Regardless of the heat or political atmosphere, this year should be no different. However, let us in our own little way think of the environment, if for no other reason that our children after us will still have a beautiful, pollution-free, climate-stable world in which to enjoy their summers.

Sick of this disposable culture and want to give consumerism the middle finger? Learn how to build a sustainable wardrobe by checking out our post: 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe.

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