Why Over-Consumption Will Be The Death Of Us

There's no surprise to see a movement towards brands spruiking slow fashion initiatives, after years of excessively consuming the mass production of cheap, poor-quality clothing. Not only that, but the energy that goes into this industry contributes to tonnes of toxic wastewater, large carbon footprints, mass deforestation and land degradation, and not to mention the outrageous human rights violations committed upon garment workers.

Pre-Industrial Revolution, clothing was often locally sourced and produced, reflecting both the place and culture of the people wearing them. It’s wild to think how far the fashion industry has come since then with many large-scale companies turning a blind eye to the impact of their supply chain in favour of maximising their profit (Zara, H&M, UNIQLO we’re talking about you).

Recently consumers have noted a re-emergence of values that pre-dated the Industrial Revolution with brands placing a stronger focus on high-quality, sustainable materials, “seasonless” collections, fair wages and locally sourced and produced supply chains. Not only does this reduce a brand’s environmental impact, but it also encourages consumers to stop and think; To limit their consumption of cheaper knockoffs that only helps to fuel their insatiable appetite for the latest trend at the expense of others.

You might ask, so where does the beauty industry come into all of this?
Well, the answer lies in our over-consumption. As JB MacKinnon explains, ‘we are devouring the planet’s resources at a rate 1.7 times faster than it can regenerate.’ Couple that with the impact over-consumption has on mental health, inducing feelings of inadequacy and envy, and a culture of overworking.

It means no industry is immune to this notion of over-consumption with the beauty industry among the worst. The desire for brands to stay “current” and “on-trend” as a way to retain customers only exacerbates the industry’s repeated disregard for adequate ethical and sustainable practices.

Take the global sourcing platform, Alibaba, as an example where brands can source products that are cheaper and faster than the majority of local manufacturers. But while brands can get their product to market faster, it is often overseas companies that have almost no transparency surrounding their environmental impact and employee welfare. This isn’t to say that all manufacturers on this platform are inadequate, but rather highlights how the demand for immediate consumption far outweighs developing a product of quality.

Cosmetic and beauty brands that advocate being “cruelty-free” or “environmentally friendly” yet push a narrative of needing the latest “must-have” are just as guilty of this problem as the rest of them (e.g. O.P.I, Kylie Cosmetics, LA MER, NARS, L’Oreal). The list is extensive but you get the idea. This thought alone is depressing enough to grab your attention but so broad and rampant throughout every facet of society that most people are left feeling overwhelmed and laden with hopelessness.

How can we possibly eradicate our need to consume if we are conditioned to buy, buy, buy? MacKinnon admits that getting people to believe that a simplified lifestyle can be a satisfying existence will be the 'biggest hurdle.' It’s not about going cold turkey, throwing your phone away and living Bear Grylls-style. He explains that it starts with investing in products that are developed with intention and durability. Step away from social media and evaluate what you need, spending less time listening to what individuals online tell you to buy. Regarding skincare, if you need a new moisturiser, buy one but don’t get caught up on all the serums and toners that claim to “change your life.” Ageing is ok. We are not immortal and the idea that we have to permanently look like our twenty-two-year-old self is not worth it when you learn that companies profit from your insecurities (In 2020, the global anti-ageing market was estimated to be worth almost 81.4 billion dollars). You don’t need a twelve-step skincare routine to look and feel amazing. What you need are a few quality products and an active, healthy lifestyle. The latter is more effective than any skincare treatment money can buy. It’s all about learning to slow down, find what works, buy less, and buy better.