I’ve been a supporter of independent brands, designers and artisans since the start of this blog and longer. My grandparents were potato farmers and running your own business runs in the family through many generations on both sides. So it’s only natural that I have an interest in small businesses and the stories behind brands. I guess that’s how I ended up doing what I do, helping make other people’s brands awesome for a living and hopefully one day, I’ll have my own brand bigger than what I’ve already done.
Photo from one of my fave cartoon series, Cartoon Network’s We Are Bear Bears in their episode, Tote Life. You should totes check it out.
I did a few polls on Twitter this week around some areas of shopping and brands that I’ve been thinking about for a while and I’m looking into researching these topics further. So, whatever I end up saying here is once again my opinion based on some basic research and you’re welcome to give your thoughts or insights too. The majority of you will have been raised in a capitalist society, which heavily relies on spending money and consumerism. A constant flow of advertising, celebrity endorsements and the latest must-haves give us an intense pressure to constantly buy more stuff whether it be the latest iPhone or that covetable pair of designer shoes that’ll set you back half of this month’s salary. We can’t help the desire to buy stuff, it’s how we were raised and it’s difficult to escape when the propaganda is EVERYWHERE.
My Twitter polls were quite interesting as one of them displayed that almost 30% of voters rarely or never consider a brand’s ethical or sustainable stance before giving them their money. It doesn’t really matter which ethical or sustainable issues we’re talking about here, you can apply this conversation to almost any category. Interestingly, however was that over 73% of voters said that they would prioritise sustainability within their food shopping over any other category, which I guess makes sense considering the growing popularity of vegan and vegetarianism, it’s a hot topic right now, especially in the UK where food culture is particularly bad at its basic levels. We’ve been finding it easier to eat healthier and more sustainably here in Spain as a lot of the produce is local or made in this country.
What I wanted to talk about here is about how when you purchase something, you are buying into that brand or shops future. You’re funding their growth, their development and their dreams. If the brand or shops ethics or goals do not compliment what you personally believe, should you really be funding them? Some would argue that it doesn’t matter, but I really think it does. For society to improve and for world problems to improve, we really need to focus our collective spending energies on the companies and businesses that are doing more than just lining their pockets. I’m certainly not talking about publicly outing brands when their interns fuck up on social media posts, what I’m talking about is basic, give your money and attention to companies that you want to see grow and flourish and not to those who you know are doing damage in one form or another, whatever that issue be.
The list of issues within consumerism is so long it can be overwhelming and right now, in the midst of my research it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to happily buy anything, as there are so many problems to think about. So, I understand why some people struggle to find the time to care or do anything about these issues. What I’d suggest is to think about what causes matter to you the most and focus on those first, then see what happens, baby steps. For some of you that’s being vegan, for others it’s about cruelty free beauty or ethical fashion, whichever cause you choose, you’re making a difference and that’s important. Talk about it, educate others kindly and with an open mind, we can make a difference if we work together, as well as respecting different opinions to our owns.
Being self employed, I know how tricky it is to run your own business and the stresses associated with inconsistent income and paying bills on time whilst juggling what should be the job of four different people, so I like to focus my spending energy on funding other self employed people or small businesses. I went self employed because it was better for my health and I know lots of other people work for themselves for the same reason, so I really care about enabling others to continue living a happy, healthy lifestyle rather than funding big companies that cater to the 9-5 business model for their staff which I don’t personally support because it didn’t work for me. I would always rather buy products from a real person than from a faceless brand. Which is part of the reason why a brand’s story is so crucial to me, I like brands that have a logical, intelligent or interesting reason for existing and I generally don’t like brands that just reel out product after product just to make a quick buck, whilst pushing an unrealistic lifestyle that puts unnecessary pressure on delicate minds.
There are SO many ways you can make changes to be a more conscious consumer and the causes you will want to support will vary from person to person, because we’re all different and that’s OK. What really matters is that we acknowledge that there are problems and we take action to make things better. Here’s a few ways you can change up your routine that can help make a big difference to how you shop for the greater good, I’ve covered a variety of issues here and would love to know what you do to be more savvy with your shopping.
- Get your coffee at an independent cafe or vendor instead of heading to Starbucks, not only will it probably be cheaper, you’re funding a small business instead.
- Looking for a frivolous treat? Pop onto Etsy and discover some awesome handmade bits instead of popping into Primark or Topshop. You can find all sorts on Etsy from clothes to soap, this platform (and others like it) help fund a person’s creativity rather than some rich dudes fashion empire.
- When buying food try to buy food that was made or grown as locally as possible, or at least from the country you live in. It will always boggle my mind that New Zealand lamb is so popular in UK supermarkets considering how many sheep exist locally. It’s not easy in the UK, but if you can use local butchers/veg shops instead of the big supermarkets, this will also improve things.
- Switch to cruelty free with your beauty products, this is SO easy now that brands are getting savvier with this need, but there are some loopholes. Research brands owned by parent companies or sell in China, as some cruelty free brands can be deemed to be deceiving when you consider the bigger picture.
- Use those tote bags! How many tote bags do you own? If you’re anything like me you have a tote bag jammed packed full of other tote bags, desperate for attention. This instantly reduces consumer waste by ditching the plastic in favour of reusable.
- Buy more secondhand, you can buy all sorts second hand from charity shops, eBay, Depop and car boot sales. Dig in and re-home existing stuff instead of creating more potential waste, plus you’re probably helping out someone who was more in need of your cash than H&M.
- Learn how to repair things when they’re broken. A lot of affordable products on our modern day marketplace are pretty shit quality, but there’s no reason why you can’t fix it. Tasks like mending holes and shortening hems take less than 5 minutes to complete and if you can’t do it yourself there are places you can go who can help for very little money. Same goes for shoes, re-heeling good shoes will triple or quadruple their life spans, so you don’t have to rebuy as frequently.
Remember that we’re constantly advertised to, especially with social media. If a brand is visible to you it’s usually because they’ve got an advertising budget because it’s SO difficult for a brand to get attention without spending A LOT money now. When you go to make a purchase, consider if you genuinely NEED it and what impact it has on the wider world, talk about it, think about it. You are in control of your purse strings after all. I try to be thoughtful about all my purchases these days, which has resulted mainly in my spending massively dropping, but hey, is that a bad thing? The main sentiment I’d like people to take away from this rant is to fund dreams rather than greed, buy into positive messages and inspiration rather than fleeting trends or good/really expensive advertising. When you buy from an independent brand or designer, you’re making an individual want to keep on creating and you’re making it possible for them to continue what makes them happy, when you buy from that high street chain you’ll making it possible for more of the same thing to pop up across the globe and often via some pretty shifty practises, is that really what we should be aiming for?
I’ve got a half-arsed list of indie brands that I dig here, which is in need of updating, but might give you some inspo to get started, I’ve mentioned others in my equally half arsed #IndieLove series here. If you’re interested in learning more about ethical fashion specifically, I’d highly recommend giving Tolly Dolly Posh a read, she’s amazing and has definitely inspired me to make positive changes, there’s some great book recommendations on her blog too. If you have a recommendation for a great resource relating to ethical or sustainable shopping, please drop me a note in the comments or tweet me. Always up for a chat if you want to know anything or share ideas too.