In this era of woke conversations, it’s all too easy to tell people to love their bodies, love the way they are, and embrace self-love. However, do most people pause to think as to why it is so difficult to actually practice self-love or question the societal conditioning that our minds have gone through to make us struggle so much with something as simple as loving ourselves? It is after all, as most people would agree, hardly easy to constantly battle against your own insecurities and the double standards of the world at large and while there is a lot of rage against fatphobia nowadays, and rightfully so, perpetuation of conventional beauty standards is still the norm, especially in the kind of media we consume.
One of the most significant ways to understand how visual media affects human minds, is by learning about the term called the ‘Culture Industry’. Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, German neo-marxist thinkers of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, had put forward the argument that humans are being turned into passive consumers by the culture industry because content, of any kind, has certain ideological mechanisms working behind it which affects the human mind both consciously and subconsciously.
What as consumers of visual content humans are being fed are entire personalities and lifestyles. So that is how insidious the culture industry can be in the formulation of society’s ideas and perceptions. Popular media, therefore, severely influences how one person feels about one’s own body, about self-love, social issues and the world around. Other than common sources of visual media, like films, series or social media content, clothing websites are also subtle perpetrators of conventional beauty standards with the power to affect the mental health of the audience it targets. For example, most popular clothing websites in India nowadays, with their fast fashion, barely ever have body positive models modelling for their clothes, or size-inclusive clothes. Even if plus sizes are available, they are by specific plus size brands, which are very few in number.
Conventionally ‘beautiful’ models on these websites then are all mostly fair-skinned, skinny and contributing to creating a very specific idea of beauty. The need of the hour is for size-inclusive clothes and diverse representation, so that in place of exacerbating growing mental health issues, healthier notions of beauty and its subjectivity are propagated and a new ‘norm’ is born with changes in society’s perceptions. Certain brands are trying to go against such perceptions and create a new norm that is inclusive. For instance the brand Profusion Fashions functions on certain core values that come from very basic human responses. They believe in “QEER – Quality, Equality, Empowerment and Respect should form the basis in how we process life” and its events.
One of the other very glaring harmful side effects of the fashion industry is the production of apparels which has a major impact upon the environment. With this recent trend of fast fashion dominating the clothing industry, huge amounts of wastes are being generated from non-sustainable clothes being produced and distributed to keep up with the increasing market demand. All of this has terrible consequences on our environment, on our health and on the lives of the workers of such industries.
Reports say that water pollution, production of harmful chemicals, increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased deforestation and more like these are all side-effects of the workings of the textile industry that negatively affect our environment, a destruction and devastation which is only increasing, in leaps and bounds, with the passage of time. The working conditions of the workers are inhumane because not only are they not provided with safety gear or proper ventilations at their workplace, they are also given wages lower than the living wage. Forced and child labour is also rampant in such places. Such reasons, therefore, should definitely make us reconsider our buying decisions and make us move towards buying from brands with sustainable clothing and low waste. Sustainable clothing saves natural resources, uses less water, provides for better working conditions of workers, is better for animal lives and reduces our carbon footprint on earth. This is where brands like Profusion Fashions are coming in and changing the game. Profusion Fashion is a “fashion and style driven boutique style online plus size store focused on fiercely feminine clothing from sizes Audacious US 14 to Delicate US 30” and provides “customisation for all sizes.” One of their main mottos involve “focusing on ways to control waste with high regard to value for labour.”
Having awareness about all this is extremely important. It can be said that sustainable fashion might cost more than buying clothes from the latest retail market, but in the long run this is what will help reduce stress on our environment and make the lives of human beings better. If such significant shifts do indeed come about in the workings of the fashion industry, deep-rooted problems can be rooted out for fresher standards of fashion that are inclusive and healthy for the environment. Away from the boundaries of patriarchy, brands like Profusion Fashions are trying to re-imagine fashion, as a way of connecting to the essence of the person. And their Zero Waste Shop works towards “making products and garments from our own production waste”. Human beings produce immense waste, so an usage of that for clothing apparels is a remarkable move towards saving our Earth.