How to make your style reflect your values.
Across the Merchants domain, you’ll often see us referring to ‘consumption’ and ‘sustainability’ in different breaths. In the context of our brand and what we practice, we view sustainability as a component of our business model. Consumption, on the other hand, is your end of the deal.
There’s two sides to individual sustainability on the fashion front. One is the act of ethical buying, the other revolves around how we use those material goods. Conscious consumption goes beyond buying luxury-grade textiles for exorbitant prices and extends to how we actually wear our wardrobes.
It would be remiss of us to advocate for sustainability while blindly selling our pieces and encouraging you to consume beyond your (and our planet’s) means. While we are actively working towards providing you with products that leave as little impact as possible, it’s still one thing to shop sustainably and another entirely to consume ethically.
The two ideas work in tandem, pushing the fashion system towards more environmental, people-friendly outcomes.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE SHOPPING?
Minimal consumption is the end goal, which is incongruous with the standard business model of sell, sell, sell/buy, buy, buy. Where there is demand, businesses increase supply, initiating an endless cycle of consumption. We are more interested in adjusting our input to control our output, accounting for the many ways we impact the planet.
Everything we do causes ripples of impact across the broader context of self expression, art, culture and society. The white wash and debris left behind by such an impact is measured by carbon emissions, landfill, mistreatment of workers, environmental threats, unfair wages and an industry that treats the planet as though it is supposed to bend to our every will. At Merchants, we are bending the other way, rejecting the current standards applied to fashion labels.
Sustainable shopping pushes quality over quantity, slow creation and meaningful retail decisions. Our products are designed to last and, when your emotions move on or your piece has outlived its prime, we will take it back and recycle the materials. Read more about our circularity program here.
WHAT IS ETHICAL CONSUMPTION?
The art of conscious consumption lies in the opposite definition of the word - making do with what we have and buying as little as possible. It might seem counterproductive for a business to advise their audience to consume less, but it’s in our best interests to do so. What good is creating if our environment and community cannot support it?
Conscious consumption is the practice of buying only what you need, taking care of what you own and ensuring that anything you discard will be reused or recycled. It seems simple, in theory, but the reality is a little murkier.
Currently, there’s a void between wanting to become more socially conscious and actually putting that into practice. Here’s how to consume meaningfully.
There’s a real communal side to ethical consumption. We are all social beings, measuring our progress in life in relation to others. If our physical circles and online feeds tell us to buy more, consume more, take more - we are going to want to do just that.
In the context of fashion, conscious consumption requires shunning the cries of the fashion industry that beg us to buy more. Currently, we are lulled into blindly consuming to an unethical extent. The conscious consumer analyses advertising messages and marketing ploys that create needs we didn’t know we had and convincing us to fulfil causes we don’t need.
Ethical consumption is like a roadblock, halting the stream of traffic to question why we need MORE. When we stop and think about what we’re doing and why we buy so much fashion, the cycle is at least fractured.
This idea applies in other facets of life, asking us to stop and think about what we purchase and consume.
Our plan extends beyond the immediate beckons and calls of Merchants to encompass what our community needs.
In a world calibrated to maximise consumption, a common misconception emerging from sustainability discourse is the idea that no action is adequate to better our planet. This kind of cynicism detracts from genuine ethical efforts like a landslide corrodes a cliff face. It would be folly to believe that individual choices have no material impact, and our consumption habits should remain rapacious. We don’t need to extort our surroundings for fashion - the two things can coexist as long as we care enough to house them both.
As you know, we are committed to making few and designing well. We ask that you support our mission by only buying what you will truly use and look after, whether that’s in our store or beyond.
We will continue to provide you with the information you need to make positive decisions and dress yourself without demanding more. We’ll do so by being as transparent as possible, balancing expression with ethics.
Educate yourself, educate your friends, ask for more of your favourite brands. Everyone can make adjustments on some level, and a conversation goes a long way. Try to shop sustainably AND consume ethically, knowing that they are separate notions.