I was already skeptical about what she was going to say and certainly there were a few other listeners that evening who shared my concerns. The suggestion that the new generation leaving education now are more aware of the ethical practices of the brands they use, and are voting with their feet by turning their back on those who don’t meet the standard is vitally flawed.
Her argument was that as we come out of recession consumers will have more spending power and will start dictating the future of brands that don’t meet the standard. Also that brands have seen the way customers shop and are changing their methods and practices to keep them loyal.
But as a layman going into shops previously guilty of less than ethical practices I have yet to see the changes in either product quality or price. Additionally as a business owner I haven’t seen any lean toward customers wanting to pay more for better products. I still get asked if I can make dresses for £30. But equally I am aware that we are not out of recession and aren’t even moving close to it yet.
If that was the case brands such as Primark wouldn’t still be thriving when other more conscious companies are struggling to survive. No matter how much consumers complain about the quality of these brands, they are still supporting them by spending their money there. The only way anything will change is if shoppers change their habits and ultimately consumers do have the power to change things.
The only way to encourage people to buy ethically and homegrown is to educate them, let them know what the alternatives are. Everyone knows about the banking crisis because of the news reports and the hype surrounding this forced them to get themselves back in order. But somewhere along the line the message about clothing production has been lost.
There is a reason a dress in Primark or New Look is £30 and it has nothing to do with good ethical practices or quality. I cannot even buy enough quality fabric for £30 to make a dress let alone design, manufacture and fit one to a client. If you’re fed up with what these chains are offering stop buying from them, even if it means having to save for longer to get something better.
We are a nation addicted to shopping. We don’t need to shop. You probably already have too many clothes. Why have a wardrobe full of impulse purchases when you can have several good interchangable outfits that will last for years?
Vote with your money, buy from better companies, independent designers, vintage, recycling and made in the UK. There are plenty of them around.
Social Change UK’s message is all very admirable, I appreciate that it needs to happen but it isn’t practical right now and whilst consumers aren’t prepared to take action.