Ethical home decor is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, since I’ll soon be moving house. My search for affordable homeware that is, ya know, actually nice, has got me wondering whether our thirst for trendy houses is setting decor on the same path as fast fashion.
In 2019, the world is waking up the damaging impact of fast fashion. We’ve had TV documentaries. We’ve had Twitter threads. And we’ve definitely had our fair share of blog posts courtesy of me! Light is finally being shed on the way that the over-production and consumption of clothes are harming our planet and other people.
Not only does it create obscene amounts of waste and use polluting manufacturing processes, but fast fashion capitalises on the mistreatment of people, specifically women of colour working in garment factories. As I’ve spoken about a hundred times before, low costs have to be made up somewhere! Often, that’s through hugely underpaying the people that make our clothes.
And in response to finding out this information, a lot of us are saying “Fuck that!”
I, for one, boycotted (or at least tried my best to boycott) fast fashion a couple of years back. I went from someone who used their part-time waitressing wages to buy as much from the H&M sale rail as possible, to someone who almost exclusively shops secondhand or from ethical sources. All thanks to the info on the internet.
I know, what a glow up!
Like most things on this ethical-living journey though, I’ve found that avoiding supporting fast fashion retailers isn’t as simple as just not buying their clothes.
After all, the high street isn’t all cheap packs of pants and Harry Potter PJs. Most clothes shops now sell a butt tonne of different stuff, from festival “face jewels”, to Love Island merch and, of course, house decor.
It makes sense, right? If you look good, your home should too.
Primark, H&M, ASOS, New Look, Urban Outfitters. I could go on.
All of these shops have a home section alongside their clothing ranges. In fact, a lot of them sell more cushions than they do options for people that are plus size. But that’s a discussion for another day…
Highstreet homeware: Is it ethical?
In a few months, I’m going to moving house. It’s the first time I’ve even considered how ethical my decor is. And, let me tell ya, throws and rugs can be bloody expensive. Especially when they’re from sustainable homeware brands!
The likes of H&M and Primark, on the other hand, make having a stylish home a lot more accessible. That’s valuable in itself, of course. Everyone deserves to have a nice home. But I can’t help but see the parallels between fast fashion and high street home decor and wonder whether it will ever have the same damaging impact.
Unethical home decor: Trends are moving faster
I’m not saying that decor trends haven’t always existed in the modern world. However, I do think that these trends – mirroring the direction of fast fashion – are moving much more quickly.
I mean, avocado bathroom suites were a thing throughout the whole of the 70s. These days, you can barely lay tiles before an interior design programme is telling you about the next big thing. Should we be buying copper, crushed velvet or rattan? TELL ME HOW TO BE COOL, PLEASE.
These ever-changing trends are bound to create waste. Whilst I don’t think it’s quite reached the “52 micro-seasons” of fast fashion yet, some of us are redecorating or at least buying new furnishings at a dizzying rate in an attempt to keep up.
The problem lies in what happens to this waste. Like clothes, it could get passed onto charity shops, thereby lengthening its life, or maybe it just ends up in a landfill.
Related post: Fast fashion and why it’s fucked up
Unethical home decor: The Instagram Effect
Sophie from Mrs Hinch Home has literally made an online career for herself out of two things 1. Loving cleaning and 2. Having a grey home. That’s her whole niche! Her aesthetic is a massive part of what she does, and her constant swipe up links for her mirrored cabinets and organisation boxes prove that it’s in high demand.
She’s obviously not alone, either. Decor accounts and hashtags are on the rise. There are plenty of accounts out there that seem to finish renovating every room in their house and then start again. Cue: a whole new colour palette, flooring and furniture.
In exactly the same way as fashion influencers, these pictures of perfect homes may be pilling the pressure on consumers to constantly buy. After all, we all want our own bedrooms to be oh-so Instsgramable too, right?
Unethical home decor: Lower prices and higher availability
Finally, perhaps the most striking similarity between the state of homeware brands and fast fashion is the price.
It’s ever decreasing!
In fact, you could probably replace all of the soft furnishings in your living room for less than £50, with some extra scented candles in the basket for good luck.
Whilst I obviously think it’s great that stylish homeware is so accessible these days, and my instinct is to buy as many succulent- printed things as possible, the question has to be asked: Who is making these items?
Within fast fashion, prices are kept low through the extreme underpayment of garment factory workers and cotton farmers. Since many of these items (blankets, cushions, bedding, rugs) are made of similar materials, it’s probably not too much of a long shot to assume, then, that the processes are also the same. That a cushion from a fast fashion brand is just as likely to have been made by the hands of someone who has been hugely mistreated.
Plus, on top of that, the cheap price tag of highstreet decor isn’t only worrying in terms of ethics. Environmentally, it only adds to our waste issue. It means we place less value in an item and are much more likely to replace it after 6 months, than if we’d invested a larger amount on it.
I certainly don’t think that the home decor industry has yet to reach the dizzying heights of fast fashion in our society. However, with its ever-growing popularity on Instagram, more and more cheap decor shopping spots popping up and the rate at which interiors trends are moving, it’s certainly going in that direction.
As with all areas of life when it comes to being more ethical and eco-conscious, slowing down is the key. Buying less often, producing less and trying to make things last are tennants worth living by in all areas, be it in terms of your wardrobe or the cushions you put on your sofa.
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