“All men and women are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe in this communal idea that Dr. King envisaged. The world, however, is still at odds. I don’t have another way to describe our time than to say it’s “lacking soul.” This is more a feeling, rather than something anchored in context.
I get a sense for it in the complacency we’ve accepted as ‘sofa advocacy,’ the work burnout we experience in inflexible and soul-sucking jobs, and the proliferation of gif culture that placates and soothes us (hey, I love moistbuddah too!). More tangibly, I see it in the can’t-stop-won’t-stop growing gap between the rich and poor and our incompetence as one of the most prosperous nations in the world to share resources in an equitable way. For example, instead of developing universal healthcare or a functional welfare system, we choose to shame and dismisses citizens with libertarianism, telling them to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
How the American dream fails us
Really, it’s not surprising. This thinking perpetuates the status quo, keeping those who have traditionally held power on their thrones. It helps them deny what’s within them, and all of us: a fundamental need to connect. To defer and lean on others. To share resources. And to admit that happiness and love don’t come in an Amazon package or secured Apocalypse bunker.
I know this sounds grim but, mostly, it’s not our fault. American life is rife with conflict and nuance and we get stuck. On one hand, we have seemingly unfettered access to fulfill our desires. We can tap into a pool of diversity in thought and culture. And we have an array of resources to help us realize our ideas.
On the other, we face hurdles to access these “benefits.” We find we’re limited by our affluence, education, and complex systems of oppression that are ingrained in our society. This hits especially hard for POC, the economically disadvantaged, women, and non-binary and disabled individuals. In other words, folks who need the advantage of the ‘American dream’ most often learn it’s a facade.
Still, we keep striving…keep climbing…keep wanting. The rich, the poor, and the middle-class alike. That strive is our common thread. And if I learned anything in my social change classes, it’s that there’s potential for disruption there’s a shared struggle. So why not spin this ‘thread’ that unites us into a communal garment, as Dr. King alludes? Why not protest greed and re-wire ourselves to derive happiness from humanity instead?
A conscious shift
It’s possible. I see it in all the ethical and intentional brands I work with in Austin, who care passionately about their garment workers, want to understand their supply chains and take the slower road to business development that requires ongoing dialogue with suppliers rather than a default order from China because it’s the cheapest option.
I see it from my readers who ask me to recommend sustainable brands, who buy rainbow metal straws and carry them around, who compost, who get their clothes tailored, who watch and discuss documentaries, who host book clubs and clothing swap parties. They’re the new consumers who celebrate community and creation and value things (that are made better) in moderation.
Localizing the movement in Austin
As such, I wanted to play my part and contribute more formally to this movement where I live. So I started soul searching and digging into books that address community, love, cohesion, and happiness.
All About Love by Bell Hooks is one of my favorites so far. Hooks is both critical or our current times and uplifting, inspiring us to strive for love instead of greed but explaining why we so often choose the later without realizing.
She captures the idea of conscious consumption in this passage:
“Greed subsumes love and compassion; living simply makes room for them. Living simply is the primary way everyone can resist greed every day. All over the world people are becoming more aware of the importance of living simply and sharing resources. While communism has suffered political defeat globally, the politics of communalism continue to matter.
We can all resist the temptation of greed. We can work to change public policy, electing leaders who are honest and progressive. We can turn off the television set. We can show respect for love. To save our planet we can stop thoughtless waste. We can recycle and support ecologically advanced survival strategies. We can celebrate and honor communalism and interdependency by sharing resources.
All these gestures show a respect and a gratitude for life. When we value the delaying of gratification and take responsibility for our actions, we simplify our emotional universe. Living simply makes loving simple. The choice to live simply necessarily enhances our capacity to love. It is the way we learn to practice compassion, daily affirming our connection to a world community.”
This idea of challenging consumption with radical simplicity moved me to action. Because this movement is already happening in Austin I decided to put some context around it officially. To unite the people already on board with the consciousness and bring in some newbies while I’m at it!
Austin’s first ethical fashion community!
So my dear friend Jen Lewis and I decided to partner and launch Austin’s first collective for ethical fashion, the Conscious Crowd!
Brands can benefit from tapping into our community of consumers who care. Depending on the membership level you choose (one paid, one free), there will be opportunities for sales, resource sharing, exposure, and business development. Aka – Share your brand story with the right audience and help the ethical fashion community in Austin grow and prosper.
Individuals can connect with people like them, learn about ethical fashion and living, support local ethical brands, and score exclusive discounts and access to events. Membership is free in our soft launch!
Jen and I hope you’ll join us on this beautiful journey of raising up ethical fashion and intentional living in Austin.
Tell us, how do you feel about conscious consumption and fashion?