Why Clothes Matter?

Three women in high fashion workwear

The clothing we wear matters. Aside from the obvious implications like keeping us warm and dry, or protecting our bits from the sun and prying eyes, the clothes we wear matter to us and to others.

What we choose to wear impacts how people perceive us, how much attention they give us, the value they will place on our opinion and even whether they think they’ll like us.

In turn, how we dress is not only a reflection of our beliefs and values, it also impacts our own attitudes and how we work.

While most work-from-home folks would like to think it doesn’t matter if they sit in their undies and singlet or fancy shirt and slacks, it actually makes an impact on the quality of what we produce. Scientists have spent time researching how what we wear impacts us, and they’ve proven that taking the time to dress for work improves our focus, even if we’re not leaving the house.

But, I’m more interested in understanding how we are impacted by the way a garment is made. Will someone be more likely to buy an ethically-made garment created with minimal harm to living creatures and the planet we call home?

The good people at Baptist World Aid, have done some digging into this topic. They’ve researched the motivations of consumers in their Australian Ethical Consumer Report. The results are interesting, but not very surprising if you’ve been in this industry as long as I have.

Overwhelmingly, most Aussies base their fashion purchasing on the quality of the clothing and the price. This is despite the fact that three in four Australians consider ethical fashion important, and 87% want to consume more ethically in the future. In other words, we might agree with the idea of ethical fashion, but we’re not prepared to pay more for it. Or, we just don’t think about ethics when browsing shopping malls. And to be fair, I understand this point to an extent. The cost of living is high, and marketers do a great job of keeping us distracted while shopping and feeling like we need more than we do. But back to the report…

If the majority of people aren’t shopping ethically for clothing, who is? It turns out that people who make decisions based on the long-term implications of the purchase are in the minority (told you I wasn’t shocked by the data).

Classified as ‘conscious consumers’, this minority group of 9% believe their impact on others matters more than their own personal benefit. They are also the most likely group to consider the impact of their clothing on the environment, who made their clothing, and whether the practices were ethical or sustainable. They also recognise that they’re part of a global community – in other words, they understand that the way they live impacts others. Basically, they’re the people who shop with Etiko.

As the new year begins and we look to 2024 as a chance to be a better version of ourselves, I’d like to encourage all of you to think both globally and long term in your goals. How can you do more to help others or help the planet?

If you’re already buying ethically-made clothing, you’re doing better than 91% of the population. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do more. In your instance, the answer lies in advocacy.

Advocacy means speaking up, taking action, and telling other people what you’ve learned about conscious consumerism and why it matters. It can look like a casual chat, an email to a clothing company or MP, or even a recommendation of Etiko to your mates.

In a world that seems to be increasingly divisive and troubled, where humanitarian and environmental action is urgently needed now, I think we can all take steps to increase our reach and be better advocates. To advocate for people within our supply chains who don’t have that privilege, and to advocate for a planet that’s choking on our consumption habits. In fact, I’d say it’s our duty as global citizens. Wouldn’t you?

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