Ask These Three Questions Before Buying

As minimalists, we aim to be more conscious of our possessions and purchases; not just buying less, but also buying better. Since embracing minimalism, what I own and what I buy is largely determined by beauty and functionality, craftsmanship and quality, and the ethos of the business behind the goods and services.

Recently I dropped in at ‘Fat Face’, a popular UK high street clothing store,  and came across a simple cotton blouse that was priced at £45 (about US$60). I thought both the design and quality of that particular piece of clothing was mediocre at best. I was quite perturbed by the blouse, not so much by the price (it was certainly a tad overpriced for what it is), but by where it was made- Bangladesh. It seems like most of ‘Fat Face’ clothing are now made in Bangladesh. Nowadays, one is hard pressed to find something that is not made in China or one of the other developing countries. I understand this is all part and parcel of minimising costs and maximising profits. But Bangladesh made me uneasy, it was where many garment workers slaved for a pittance and were made to work in unsafe conditions with disastrous consequences.

The docu-movie ‘The True Cost‘ made me more aware of the processes and human stories behind the production of clothing, and ‘fast fashion’ items in particular.  It revealed the heart-wrenching tales of people who end up paying the price for our insatiable consumption and desire for ‘cheaper the better’ stuff. Bangladesh is one of the cheapest production locations for clothing retailers where the daily wage for garment workers hovers around $2. What perturbed me was that if I was paying $60 for the blouse and the worker who made it supposedly earned $2 for a day’s work, Fat Face must be literally stuffing its face with profits! I don’t mind paying $60, I don’t mind ‘Fat Face’ making a healthy profit of it as they should, but I mind the garment workers getting a really poor deal out of this whole process. They are the lowest cog in this food chain and they are the ones being squeezed the hardest. And it’s not just Fat Face, there’s H&M, Gap, Forever21…think of a high street retailer and they are likely to be guilty of similar rapacious practices.

I’m a proponent of capitalism but I also think there should be a level of balance and fairness present in the system, or we end up with a situation of vast inequality as is now the case in many countries.
‘The True Cost’ looks at the price we pay for fast fashion and it really drove home the point for me. We need to be conscious of our consumption, and it is also useful to ask ourselves a few questions before we make our purchases:

  • Do I need this and does it serve a purpose and add value to my life? (key questions for minimalists)
  • Is it well-made and of good quality? (buy less but buy better)
  • What’s the story behind it? Was it made by a company that believes in paying its workers a fair wage and providing them with a safe working environment, and who supports sustainability and environmentally-friendly policies? (being an ethical and responsible consumer)

These questions are even more pertinent as we face the advertising and consumption onsluaght of ‘Black Friday’ and the Christmas season. We all love a good deal. But is the deal still that ‘good’ if it was built on another person’s misery? We might not change the world overnight but if each of us do our bit, we might just make a difference.

Want to know more about minimalism? Do check out my book “Make Space: A Minimalist’s Guide to the Good and The Extraordinary.” here.


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