Every year around this time, the malls are bustling with huge crowds scrambling to find last minute Christmas gifts for their family and friends. And every year around this time, I avoid the malls at all costs. Yes, I still do my Christmas shopping, but I tend to have it all finished before December even begins. The busy stores, the messy shelves, and the rude customers are usually enough for me to stay away from these consumer traps.
In one of my classes, I watched a documentary called The True Cost, which looks at the garment industry and its effects on people and the environment. In addition, the documentary pays close attention to consumerism and the effects that mass media have on global capitalism. I highly recommend anyone who has the time to watch this powerful documentary as it breaks down the garment industry for fast fashion businesses in particular and examines our practices of consumerism that we are not usually aware of.
Boxing Day is a day of sales. It’s a shopping holiday for Canada, as well as for other countries, and it is common for huge crowds to form in malls on this day. A day after Christmas, Boxing Day is one to witness people going insane for dramatic price reductions on anything from video game consoles to clothing items.
The True Cost questions holidays such as Black Friday and Boxing Day, which are holidays that fall a day after Thanksgiving (United States) and Christmas. Twenty-four hours later, some of these same thankful and loving people are seen fighting strangers for the newest electronic device or the last available item of clothing. How have we fallen so far into a consumer trap that we have reached this point? Shopping is fun but the holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, not waiting at the malls for your favourite store to open their doors at exactly five a.m., so you can grab that new sweater you’ve been waiting months to get your hands on.
My note to those who do participate in Boxing Day sales is to be cautious and to be aware. Obviously, be cautious of those around you, as the crowds are always a bit too crazy on these shopping holidays. The True Cost showed me how to become more aware. Try to do research about fast fashion businesses such as Forever21 and Zara, stores that are constantly changing their inventory to match the latest trends seen on the runway. The effects of the fast fashion industry affect those who make the clothing. The demands are increased and the worker conditions are unfortunately reduced. For us to receive these clothes, workers are forced to work in hot and chemical-ridden buildings that are on the edge of collapsing due to their poor construction and maintenance.
The True Cost also taught me to only buy things that I really need. Falling into the consumerism cycle, we are constantly buying and buying in order to keep up with the trends. However, if our items of clothing are still in good condition why toss them to the side? There are ways to re-style them instead of going out and buying a whole new wardrobe because the media is telling us to do so.
The documentary asks the question of who pays the price for our clothing? Is it us, the consumers, who physically hand over the money to buy an article of clothing? Or is it the garment factory workers, who are constantly put into dangerous working conditions, in situations separating themselves from their family, where they are barely being paid enough to actually make our clothes?
As said before, I definitely recommend this documentary to anyone and everyone who might want to learn more about where our clothes come from. On that note, stay safe on Boxing Day and happy holidays!