Consume, Choicses & Economy - The Story behind any Label

What is the role of advertising, marketing, PR and media in the way we make our choice of consume?

In the True Cost Movie there is a phrase saying:

"Advertising is making us buy more and more and more and in the end it made everyone just poorer."

This was the phrase, which touched me personally the most when I watched it, next to all the harm of people suffering in the supply chain of fast fashion. Me, working in political PR, was this person, who makes people belive it is good to consume. I was advertising ways to think: I influenced thoughts with media and events, to shift certain kind of decision-making.

Born into this economic world, I was one consuming factor and I worked for the economy ever since. I worked for "buying more" bigger, better, greater.  Looking back, I was shocked how many people I moved, with what I as able to do as an intern just entering work.

I was asked during my studies in Dublin the first time: "Do you know who made your clothes, Nora?" - What I found after, about slavery, water pollution and toxic chemicals in fashion industries, shocked me. I was searching for NGOs, donations, solutions - but it seemed as to find nothing right. I got to know Fashion Revolution, I joined the team and started to build up a social media awareness in Germany with the Hashtag #Whomademyclothes. But that still wasn’t enough. I wasn’t able to find an answer to all my questions. So hitched hiked from Istanbul until India, couchsurfing, being as close to local people as possible, willing to learn everything I wasn’t able to find out in Germany - looking at everything, that is happening behind a Label - Fashion Labels mainly. I took you with me with this blog www.TheStoryBehindTheLabel.com so that also you are able to see the people, who make our clothes and what is their story. The sentence from the True Cost Movie was always in my head: I had to see how things are really produced, rather then coming up with a story about it for Marketing. I wanted to find out real value of things and stop making them up, I wanted to let people talk for themselves.

Hitchhiking, Couchsurfing, spending nearly no money. But spending a lot of time sharing, learning and respecting different people. Having nothing but one backpack, Max made me sort out every day - I noticed that my choice of consume and what I really need changed quickly. That was probably the most simple and most satisfied time of my life. 

I started to see beauty in different things. A ride in a taxi meant nothing, while a ride with a nice person, wanting to help, in exchange of a conversation about whatever the person was interested in, meant everything. A night in a hostel was uncomfortable, while a night under the stars, in front of majestic mountains (unsure to fear or to respect), wasn’t able to be translated in something I could pay with money for.

Not consuming, feeling rich.  Being in the luxury of understanding my surrounding - nature and life - that made me find an incredible strong peace within me.

I came back to Europe and didn't want to let go on the peace, I found in this simplified way of living. So I sold most of my furniture, I sorted out my closet, in order to feel free enough and still being able staying in one place now. I didn't waste anything - but sold, sometimes for a smile and a coffee, I gave stuff away to friends and people at the street, being happy these things gaining a greater value in the hands of others. It was a lot of work, not consuming, but giving away. It felt so much harder in a consume-driven surrounding like Germany was. It felt so good to me, not a single moment I had the feeling losing something. I just let go. But I was explaining myself constantly against what advertising and other media seemed to tell everyone around me.

After a while I went shopping, once, trying to like it again, but it didn't seemed to work for me anymore the same way. I wasn’t able to value anything I saw in a shop. It had a price tag and nothing else was visible to me, but this number, which could not possible stand for anything I saw during my journey.

Then I met Ofek from Israel, who faught at Gaza, now wanting to pay back to nature, people, especially Muslims, what we faught in so many confusing ways. He was my couchsurfer in Berlin and became an inspiring friend. He showed me that you don't need a simple surrounding, to live simple. We travelled to Barcelona together for three days, spending 5€ in total on food; sleeping and eating outside. We were showering at the beaches and drank the water which was available. 

This was a crazy kind of satisfaction, fear and happiness, I felt back then. It clearly opened my eyes, that I cant be as satisfied by things as I can by the excitement of making, getting, earning them; being afraid and surprised how friendly, great and stunning nature, animals and humans can be - even in the middle of a fancy European city I was walking the last times in heels. 

Ofek made a clear point: You don’t need to leave, to live a simple life. You do not need to be so brave of going far away, going into something you don’t know. You don’t need to be like other people. You decide your life. You decide your consume, your respect, the way you walk and act in every moment. And then, everything is possible: You can do absolutely everything you want to. But it is about bravery acknowledging the own will.

All about minimalizing in the mind

After financial crisis 2008 there are some Americans, you can watch waking up out of this american bubble of consumerism. Netflix shows their documentary Minimalism.

As an European it might be funny to watch and it is easy to think: Gosh, why do these people even need to teach each other to live happily by less?!

What they actually do is, to show how brainwashed they are by advertising.  And the documentary will come to the point, which will touch you personally. 

This kind of overload is everywhere. And all of us are influenced by something in our everyday actions. 

Why is that dangerous? Because we lose our own will, when consumerism is in a constant race about our attention. The winner of the easiest offer for us replaces our conscious choice. - Not the other way around.

A question, which returned in any exam at my Media Management University: What is the difference between Propaganda and Advertising? I always had to memorize the answer word by word out of the books, because in my point of view, there is actually no difference. In Germany we went from Hitler to Advertising. Our generation used Mein Kampf for the clever thinking in Marketing, claiming this is not as bad as Hitler was, if you use it for economy.

We build this globalized world and made money the language of everyone. In the same time Production happens in a different place than Consumerism - And advertising allows making up everything what happens in between. What we see is a price.  The feeling we left with is how much money we spend. Something we spent, we loose, we give. Believing that we are better with more money than with less money. What if we advertise the truth? ...a little bit like the True Cost movie did...

Capitalism reduces lots of aspects within the value-chain to one single number. It is a naive thinking, that this number is always right. With ongoing globalized markets and efficient economy systems, value turned into a decided number. We don’t translate the real value into a number of money anymore, we decide a number and pressure production into the supply-chain. We decide the real value and loose the view on reality.

I just love George Orwells phrase, it just hits it on the spot: 

At the Minimalist documentary they also talk about the Fashion industry and they use the same pictures as in the True Cost Movie, speaking about economy and consume. How we grew from four-, to fiftytwo seasons a year. Our clothes traveled to more countries, than most of us will ever see. It is the fastest most globalized industry, with an enormous advertising potential, making us believe we are behind in society, if we do not consume more and quicker. It is an overload on everything: on information, on clothes, on depending jobs, shops, chemicals, trash, donations, mono-cultures, environmental issues,...

And this is broken down to one economic factor: A number on a price tag.

Since three years now, I am engaged with the Fashion Revolution Campaign taking care of the Social Media Channels. From what I see today in 2017, in behavior changes (private people and companies) I can tell, that Fashion Production and the essential question #Whomademyclothes? is growing out of its niche. If you want to see what I mean, just join the Fashion Revolution Week.

More and more people say: "I am tired of this internet full of things. For every problem I do not have, there is already a solution. And this really makes me wanting nothing anymore."

The problem is, that we get bored. Everything is available at any time. It is not special anymore, it is simply the general case -> The value looses.

The guardian lately explained it very well: We do not know what we consume. If we would know what we consume and how hard it is to produce it - Then again, yes, we may value it again.

This is what such markets models like the DIY plattform DaWanda prove. People are willing to pay more for handmade stuff by people they can see and even get to know.

In my view that can be a reason, why so many people go traveling without money. You have to work for what you consume and get satisfaction out of your actions. You simply remember what you live for, what you really need, what you need to consume and what you can produce. 

People who deal with economic behavior, trends and strategies will do good, if they are able to understand this slowing down movement on markets. Too many people proved the world to go higher, faster, better - but this simply becomes old-fashioned now. The new movement clearly has a complex task slowing-down in this fast and flexible surrounding. It is not the easier choice, but is the bettter one. However you define better, you starting, is you changing. Standing against the storm.  It is extremely hard if you live in a fast moving society. But I promise: It will be worth it in any aspect of life. You, your surrounding, enviroment, humans, markets, sense in life.

It has to be said, not to mix up with doing-good. A lot of people may think consuming the better choice helps. But infact if H&M uses organic cotton, it is still you, continuing consuming in the overload, not making choices.

If your one desire is to have a full closet, than you are still not in the need to support fast fashion. VinoKilo presented this very well in their fashion show January 2017 in Berlin, as the New Yorker Designer Doyel Joshi came up with an alternative slow runway with vintage clothes in front of a black plastik wall. It was a wall of trash bags, that fell in the end of the show, showing tons of clothes behind it. Clothes in wonderful, high-quality, never worn quality. Dead-stock, untouched, for up to fifty years.

VinoKilo is my favourite Strat-Up I work with at the moment: What they do, is to take old clothes and turn it into a lifestyle. How? With fun and joy! Fashion needs the big stage, creativity, glamour. But this can be found in a lot of creative ways with Second-Hand, upcycling, recycling, sharing, swapping. The rest is marketing.

Here is my advise, as I live again in Berlin, as a consumer in a consuming world. Minimalising does not mean taking away. It is more like focusing. It`s spending differently. You will invest more into time, people, nature, actual life, rather than caring about all that stuff we are supposed to do or to have. If you really value something, then keep it.

But ask yourself "Why do I think that I need it?" - You will be surprised how often you will find out that the only source of your opinions is actually advertising and the thought of "everybody does so".  

Start with your closet - most of us have clothes in the closet we don`t really need, nor value. Put everything away which you haven't worn in a year. You also can store it first, if you are not sure, but take it away from your everyday usage and just try to live with less. Ease yourself from your consume.  

And please don't waste it.! Waste is not going away, we live with it on this one planet and everything is circular. Think about something you can do with all your stuff. At the free download section of Fashion Revolution you can find #Haulternatives. That gives you ideas to sell, swap, upcycle, recycle or give your clothes away as presents, maybe this inspires you. It actually is fun to go new directions in life!

Today, I am proud working in PR, I wish one day we wouldn't need it anymore, but right now, working against all these empty words and messages, that steal our time, our money, our courage, self-esteem and in some way: our happiness. I feel it is important to work in the field of media management. It is a clean up with information.