“…we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl…”

Madonna’s tune rings true today more than ever. Parents in the ’80s may have pulled their hair out trying to teach their kids about the perils of materialism, but they had no idea what was to come. They could not have known that the whole world would be turned upside down all for the price of cheap clothes and goods.

On November 24th, 2012, Hollie Shaw (for the Financial Post) wrote “The biggest Black Friday to date in Canada swept across the country with a flurry of before-sunrise store openings and door-crasher deals at shopping malls and online retailers.”

In another article titled, Walmart declares that this was its best Black Friday ever, published on the 23rd of November, Ashely Lutz, also for the Post wrote, “During the high traffic period from 8 p.m. through midnight, Walmart processed nearly 10 million register transactions and almost 5,000 items per second,” the company said in a release.

It was November 24, 2012. It was also Black Friday, the super sale that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Black Friday allows consumers to scoop up deals at ridiculously low prices. This was the week-end shoppers celebrated the value of a dollar…when looking for the right Christmas/holiday gift was of ultimate priority.

Across the globe in a small Bangladeshi clothing factory, another incident of great importance was taking place, an estimated 112 women from the factory died attempting to escape a deadly fire that had no working fire extinguisher, and not enough exits.

When I read about this horrendous incident, two things came to mind, or rather two words jumped out at me from the page: “women” and “workers”. You must forgive me, perhaps it is my training in Women and Gender Issues; I cannot read any article or news story without putting the “gender” spin on it. The women were somebody’s daughter, sister, wife, mother – she could have been a friend.

Disposable clothing is becoming the new norm. No one expects clothes to last anymore. Clothing is one of the cheapest forms of material wealth. In fact we own so much clothes that we don’t know what to do with it all. I have seen babies with so many clothes that they could not grow fast enough to wear each outfit once.  Why? Why does a child need a closet full of clothes? Why do you or I need one of each in every colour? How many pairs of jeans does a teenager need?

Even the most conscious shoppers get sucked into buying. For example, I have had little success in getting my teenage daughters to shop at thrift stores. In addition, now that American retailers like Target, J. Crew, and Marshalls have landed in Canada, Canadians have more reason to see what these stores have to offer.

You can’t buy justice. This can be said for the many garment workers, who despite the cost of clothing in the First World, work in highly dangerous and volatile conditions. Worse still is the lack of a living wage and humans rights violations that occur on a daily basis.

The Tazreen Fashions factory tragedy could have been prevented. The high cost of cheap clothes is a thought so far from our minds as consumers, that even when we hear about the tragedies abroad we cannot or refuse to make a connection. In a buy cheap, wear and toss society, how can we understand the pain and suffering that goes into making a pair of jeans or a fancy dress?

I don’t always make the connection, but I try. Thankfully, I love thrift shops and always have – even before it was cool. I buy most of my clothes, as well as my younger children’s clothes from thrift/second-hand stores, and always try to persuade my teenage daughters to as well.

I am also a firm believer in making purchases, especially when shopping for luxury items, AFTER I have carefully thought it out. That Chanel bag that I “wanted” in 2005 – I so didn’t need it.

Are you a conscious shopper/consumer?  If so, how? Do you shop at stores that offer ethical fashion choices?

This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Salma.  You can find Salma blogging at Party of Five in Calgary.

Photo credit to Kevin Christopher Burke.  This photo has a creative commons attribute license.

Salma (Canada)

An Imperfect Stepford Wife is what Salma describes herself as because she simply cannot get it right. She loves decorating, travelling, parenting,learning, writing, reading and cooking, She also delights in all things mischievous, simply because it drives her hubby crazy. Salma has 2 daughters and a baby boy. The death of her first son in 2009 was very difficult, however, after the birth of her Rainbow baby in 2010 (one day after her birthday) she has made a commitment to laugh more and channel the innocence of youth through her children. She has blogged about her loss, her pregnancy with Rainbow, and Islamic life. After relocating to Alberta with her husband in 2011 she has found new challenges and rewards- like buying their first house, and finding a rewarding career. Her roots are tied to Jamaica, while her hubby is from Yemen. Their routes, however, have led them to Egypt and Canada, which is most interesting because their lives are filled with cultural and language barriers. Even though she earned a degree in Criminology, Salma's true passion is Social Work. She truly appreciates the beauty of the human race. She writes critical essays on topics such as feminism and the law, cultural relativity and the role of women in Islam and "the veil". Salma works full-time, however, she believes that unless the imagination of a child is nourished, it will go to waste. She follows the philosophy of un-schooling and always finds time to teach and explore with her children. From this stance, she pushes her children to be passionate about every aspect of life, and to strive to be life-long learners and teachers. You can read about her at Chasing Rainbow.

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