Have you ever wondered why an iPhone with advanced software cannot come up with a sturdy screen or an earphone? I hear a lot of my friends who run errands looking for replacements because they accidentally dropped their phone and the screen got damaged. It wasn’t like the phone got dropped from the fourth floor; most often it’s just barely a knee length. So, naturally, the next thing you do is go to the nearest Apple store, and they ask you to pay 12% of the amount of you initially paid for the phone. What do you do then? Obviously, buy a new phone. (Or a new screen or earphones)
The point is, it’s not whether you can afford to buy a replacement or not. It’s actually about the clever strategy of most companies who deliberately make products with short lifespans. In order to keep selling their products, they have to make sure it does not last that long. I can give you an example. There’s a light bulb in a fire station in Livermore, California, which is about 115 years old, and it’s still faintly shining. They say the secret behind this timeless filament died with the maker himself. There’s also a conspiracy behind this, it’s often called as the Light bulb conspiracy theory. And this theory is very much existent in the anatomy of our world economy (but first, let me explain this theory).
Thomas Edison invented the light bulb with carbon filaments that lasted about 1200 hours. There was an onslaught of companies soon after the invention that started making bulbs with more lifespans. Eventually, those companies started suffering because consumers were not buying any more light bulbs. Hence back in the 1920s, a cartel was established in Switzerland with a group of representatives from the bulb companies around the world. According to few pieces of evidence, it’s being said that they gathered in secrecy to determine the price and quality of the light bulb. The rules were; that the bulb should be fragile, it should not last more than 1000 hours, and if it exceeds, the company will be fined.
Interestingly, this theory sort of help comprehends our mad consumerist culture. Similar to the light bulb and other technologies, clothing brands are also notoriously inclined towards this theory, which is often called as “Planned Obsolescence.” Meaning, products are deliberately made in such a way that it turns obsolete or unusable in no time (yes, I’m talking about those buttons, and zippers). Therefore, it’s planned. And most of the consumers are not conscious about it. Brands run endorsements after endorsements suggesting that this or that trend is the “new” thing, and we should all try it.
And most of us do, without really asking ourselves if we need it or not. To keep the economy running, consumers have to participate. And it would sound extreme to say that we should ONLY buy things that we need because sometimes you “want” things right? But we should also be aware that every new trend is not necessarily our cup of tea. You don’t have to buy every idea that a TV sells. You’ve got to know yourself and know what you need and want. Because the rest becomes garbage and that’s the sole reason why our beautiful planet is in jeopardy.
Before I reached to this clarity, there were also bouts of confusion. Initially, I did not understand why I loved participating in fashion and also felt strongly about the importance of sustainability at the same time. Because from a macro perspective, both contradicts each other. Somehow, I found my way through this complexity. I edited my wardrobe and started picking up clothes that are made of eco-friendly materials. Well, most of them. Because ironically, eco-friendly stuff or “organic” items are expensive (such a screwed up system. They don’t want us to save the planet!).
From wearing colorful and floral ensemble to muted, monochromatic tone, my personal style has changed in parallel with my growth as a woman. It was about finding my voice and making choices that resonate with it. I’m trying not to give in to fast-fashion and rampant consumerism. To ensure that, I purchase things that stand the test of time and still remains relevant for years to come. This kind of consciousness enables me to buy less, and choose well.
Part of this decision was propelled by my concern for our planet. We all are equally responsible to take care of it. I did feel, for a brief moment, that how am I going to make any difference with this kind of choices. Then I realized if each one of us felt the same, change is never going to happen. The most you can go about making the change is, by first, starting with yourself.