By Magretta Sowah

Brands have pull – no doubt about it. If a brand was a real person strutting into a bar, it would be pulling (wo)men left, right and centre. Okay, let’s talk about Instagram. This social media platform, bought by Facebook a couple of years ago, is a digital giant. Its speciality? Visually driven content. Statistics show 70% of companies have an Instagram account. So what are they sharing, besides the product? It’s The Good Life.

Visual acquisition

What turns you on? Makes you look – head at 90 degrees, neck stretched back, eyes rolled to consume … Dries Van Noton peplum dress in Vogue Australia’s September issue, worn by Naomi Watts (@belinda_international). We all have a tick and it has a lot to do with perception. From a very young age we learn about height and depth, assessing situations based on measurable and favourable outcomes. It is the same with the retail experience.

Researchers have found that the first thing humans tend to do in any environment is to conduct a visual search, which is driven by a desire to find specific targets, according to Megaw & Richardson. The aim for brand [x] is to get your attention, usually by highlighting a need through price, colour and design. According to the stats for online content consumption using Instagram and Pinterest are:

‘Instagram has 300 million users. 70 million photos and videos are sent daily. 88% purchase a product they pinned.’

With that being said, think again what actually turns you on? The more statistics I read the more obvious themes like this emerge. We like visual porn (acquisition) and pursuit of The Good Life can become a very real addiction.

Fast and Frivolous

Most of us would know what the High Street is. It is a term used to describe the CBD (Central Business District) where the most retail transactions are made. High Street brands include; TOPSHOP, Miss Selfridge, ASOS, River Island, Supre and Cotton On (for Australians), H&M and Zara. This mode of Fast Fashion has one agenda: to sell as much as possible to the mass market at affordable prices. This is done by copying Luxury and Couture trends, making the style accessible to most. Purchasing a Chanel-like coat for less than 50 dollars is what makes some people tick. These shoppers don’t care if it was made from a cotton-blend instead of tweed. The problem is not necessarily the price – that is mostly internal socio-economical mark-ups and craftsmanship protection. Fair enough.

The real issue is the unsustainable value we place on having the ‘latest trend edit’. We are facing a global issue to do with sustainability, with Fashion playing more of a leading role than you can believe. Sustainability is not just buying hemp clothing and making sure you recycle. It has much bigger concerns than post-purchase behaviour. In a nutshell, sustainability is the practice of finding ethical (things that are good for the whole, rather than the individual) ways of sourcing raw materials (e.g. cotton, tweed, wool etc), the manufacturing process – which is where the biggest social issues are – shipping and the disposal of a garment.

If you haven’t heard of The Fashion Revolution, or at least the hastags: #whomademyclothes & #FashRev; it is an organisation with an aim to reclaim accountability from High Street businesses and Luxury brands practicing unethical approaches. The rate which we consume new products is already producing an unsustainable life-cycle for the industry. There are only so many resources at our disposal on this big blue planet. Overworking the environment by over-consuming, over-producing and over-demanding the new is increasing our ecological footprint at an abnormal speed. Does that make sense? It’s a lot to grasp, believe me.

Best foot forward

“On 24 April 2013, 1133 people were killed and over 2500 were injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the worst ever industrial disaster in the fashion and textile industry. It wasn’t the first, nor was it the last, but it is symptomatic of how little respect is given to the people who make our clothes and the environment they work in.” – The Fashion Revolution.

In a TEDxCopenhagen talk called ‘Changing the world through fashion’, Eva Kruse makes this great point: “If you move the money, the industry will move […] Consumers – you and I – can play a pivotal role in transitioning the fashion industry towards more sustainable business models that significantly reduce the social and environmental impacts of the industry.” Eva is the CEO and President of the Danish Fashion Institute. The DFI is behind the world’s largest event on sustainability + fashion; the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. It’s worth having a look.

When you see the consequences of mass consumption (it’s no longer an isolated issue ‘over there’) how can we not be moved as conscious shoppers? The workers in factories and on the fields move Heaven and Earth to ensure brand [x] has their units shipped before the next campaign launches. The struggle and grind is real for the; ‘Just Do It’, ‘Because you’re Worth It’, ‘I’mma let you finish…’ life – The Good Life. What about accountability? We all deserve the same right for a sustainable lifestyle.

This topic is too large to be broken down into 900 words. I hope I have done some justice to a global problem. Sustainability is increasingly being over-marketed as a brand ‘benefit’ but the truth is, it’s slow-moving in its resolution. We should all ask ourselves what is The Good Life, really? Because people are literally dying to know.