Consumed: The Need for Collective Change... Book Review

I asked for this book for Christmas. A book with an intersectional look at colonialism, climate change and consumerism sounded like exactly the sort of book I would enjoy reading. I didn't realise when I asked for it that it would focus on fashion. Perhaps if I'd known that, I would not have asked for it. I had never really thought about fashion before and how it depends on the exploitation of people and our planet. But, man, I am so glad I read it. It has completely opened my eyes to the phenomenal injustices encouraged by fast fashion. The book somehow articulates severely important topics in an engaging, digestible way. I can hear Aja Barber's authentic voice throughout and it reads almost like a conversation with the author. Before you know it, the book is finished, and your mindset permanently altered.

Below, as always, I have included some of my favourite quotes but, as always, it is much more beneficial just to read the book! I have tried to include quotes that relate closely to the effects of fast fashion on marginalised people, but there was so much of this book that I could have quoted if I broadened my scope. For instance, it revealed so much about how fashion is destroying the environment. Charity shops also only tend to sell 10-20% of its clothes, so for those who think they are doing a good thing by offloading their unwanted clothes to the local charity shop, think again! You may be propelling the cyclical nature of fast fashion.

The book ends with plenty of suggestions, all of which are well-considered and actionable. In short though, amongst other things, buy less clothes and wear them for longer. If we all did this, marginalised people would not be exploited nearly as much, wealth would be more fairly distributed, the resources we use to produce clothes would be reduced, and the waste produced by fashion, slowly destroying our planet, would slow dramatically. Thinking about the clothes you wear, influences the planet you live on.

Cleopatra Tatabele, cultural educator and co-founder of the Abuela Taught Me collective, told me: 'When I think about colonialism in the fashion industry… they literally are taking our resources from our lands, selling it back to us and burying garbage next to us; it's colonialism at its finest'.

Politician and environmentalist Heather McTeer wrote in All We Can Save, 'Black folks have always had a deep and physical connection to the environment. The land that our ancestors were forced to work was the very same space where they lived. The field where our mother's toiled was often the place where they also gave birth. Our history has entwined us with the land in a profound way, and our connection to the land in as symbiotic as bees to flowers. Yet our voices are constantly ignored on matters concerning climate impacts and environmental protections'.

The concept of white saviourism and "it's a good job in that country", and just the concept that these countries would absolutely fail without interference from the West is pretty toxic. But no one wants to acknowledge that this cycle is never about altruism or "bringing jobs to people". It's about stopping change happening from within.

That is the definition of supremacism. To think that "I won't wear this because there is a hole in it, but someone else can wear it" is literally to think that I am better than someone else.

When you grow up an ethnic minority (or a poor white person) in an affluent white area, you just want to blend in, and if you're ostracised for your clothes or the way you look, compounded with the feeling of being an outsider already… it builds something terrible inside you. You internalise this otherness and it sits deep inside you ready to be manipulated.

A fashion business that is truly equitable for everyone involved does not make billions in profit, because their profits are more evenly distributed to everyone.

The burden of integrity shouldn't be on the Black person. Or the working-class person. Or the plus-size person. Or the transgender person. Or the person with a disability.

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