The Model & the Hippy: What Can Environmentalists Learn From fashion?

Child labour, water pollution, fur and throwaway society: can environmentalists really learn anything from the fashion industry? At first glance the answer is a straight out no for me. The two interest groups are at the opposite ends of the green scale, but maybe environmentalists need to think again. The fashion industry has supposedly greened in the recent years and learnt from us so why can we not learn from them?

Sex Sells

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sex sells. The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry not because it caters to our needs, but because it caters to our wants.

It continually reinvents itself to create interest from society. Society wants it because it makes us feel alive.

The opposite may be true. It may poison our water, clog our landfills with discarded H & M tops, it may force our children to work in dirty and dangerous conditions when they should be on the playground, but those things can easily be externalised by the consumer.

The environmentalist tries to force the consumer to internalise these affects: the result may be that the consumer turns away or shuts off. Those eco hippies are just trying to make me feel guilty or I will walk on by on the other side of the street so that they do not confront me.

Not consuming is unsexy?

Almost no model is going to think that it is sexy how I scoop up my dishwater and bottle it to feed my house plants, but maybe a few will find it sweet.

This sweet step is the crucial moment.

Either the model will completely reject me or she will be attracted. We need to develop and nurture this attraction. We are already nurturing the green seedlings and these are starting to grow strong roots in our society.

So how can environmentalists nurture green consumerism further?

Firstly sneering at people’s actions is a no go. I must admit I do this too much. It is a basic human response that when someone’s sneers you turn away from them and also the ideas that they stand for.

Secondly stay true to the green side. Not sneering is important but it is yet more important that we stick true to ourselves. Weakening our credentials to  the lowest common denominator will result in failure. I have written previously about my and the planet’s problems with green consumerism.

Strike the right balance between the nurturing and staying green and the solution to the selling of green lifestyles will materialise. Just as renewable energy is taking off in the industrial sector with the right incentives i.e. subsidies, we can create green consumers by simply starting a want, a desire: a desire for a more balanced lifestyle, for a feeling of helping others and the environment and a feeling of true self-importance. The fashion industry cannot deliver this but it does show how selling image is the key to selling an idea.

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