by Pritha Nag

With the rise of social media, there has been a large increase in Instagram small businesses, especially in India. Small businesses are home-grown businesses that sell handmade, unique and products. There’s a whole community of Indian home-grown small businesses, that all support each other. The majority of small businesses operate through Instagram and sell an assortment of things ranging from jewellery, upcycled clothes, stickers and so much more. Supporting your local small businesses can make a huge impact, that you might not even be aware of, but how exactly? 

In the first wave of quarantine and lockdown, it seemed as if all of us were trying our hand at many different things, in an attempt to pass the time. During around July-August, this is when many India-based small businesses started to launch. Instagram has seen a definite increase in the number of small businesses present, and this is mainly due to the lockdown, and it’s safe to say if the lockdown never happened then some of these businesses would have. Many of these small businesses have accumulated an engaged and active community that constantly interacts in stories and posts, and helps to boost sales. Each small business has something unique to offer, as everything is handmade with lots of love! 

But why should I shop from them, when I can just easily shop from other fast fashion brands? Fast fashion is the concept of cheap and trendy clothing, that has been replicated off the runway, trends and products in designer/high-end stores. The point is to meet the consumer’s demand for wanting the trendiest piece of clothing for a cheap price, and as fast as possible. Fast fashion is mass-produced, which means that the product is made in large batches, in a constant flow. 

There are many reasons as to why you should shop from small businesses rather than fast fashion brands. With fast fashion brands, you can buy the latest trendy clothing and accessories for extremely affordable, but there’s a catch. Children make your clothes. Young children ranging from 5-11, that do not have a voice, cannot speak out on the horrendous conditions they are kept in, cannot shout out about their ridiculous wages. Young children who should be going to school, instead, labouring in poor factory conditions, for hours and earning little to nothing, just to make us clothes we’ll end up throwing when it goes out of style. 

Not only this, but fast fashion harms our planet and environment. With the fast cycle of trends always coming and going, so is the need to throw out your old clothes and get the new trendy ones. But where do our clothes go? They go into landfills, and the amount of clothes in one truck is burned or dumped every second. 85% of textiles go to waste each year, and clothing production has doubled since 2000. With the constant and rapidly increasing cycle of clothes going in and out of fashion, the need to stay up with the trends is present now more than ever. 

Although shopping from fast fashion brands isn’t the best for our environment and children, sometimes it can be seen as the only option. Some of us aren’t always in a position to shop sustainably, ethically or small, so what do I do? Fast fashion is the only option that I see. That’s an extremely valid point, but there are sustainable and ethical alternatives where you can buy clothes, jewellery and accessories sustainably and from small businesses! 

Several small businesses sell upcycled clothes, customisable clothing and many small businesses have their own brand, just like H&M, except smaller, more sustainable and handmade! Small businesses also sell one of a kind quirky and trendy jewellery, stickers, candles, prints and just about anything! With buying from these small businesses chances are that you’ll also be sporting a one of a kind unique piece because small businesses don’t mass produce. Being able to have full creative freedom and custom a piece of clothing/jewellery/bag/accessory however you’d like, is something you’d only get from small businesses! 

With wanting to dive deeper into the importance of shopping sustainably and small, I decided to get the perspective of a small business maker themselves! I interviewed the founder of the small business “Almost Ambivalent”, who sells unique handmade jewellery, based here in India.  When asked “What is one thing you want to tell people about shopping small?” She answered by saying “Even if you buy just 1 product from a small business, it makes their day! You are happy and so is the real person behind the store.” Adding onto what she said, purchasing just one item from a small business is just that one more step to helping them achieve their dreams! 

Most of the time small businesses are run by one or a group of people. It’s not a huge corporation, who are exploiting young children into making the trendiest pieces for ridiculously cheap prices. It’s one or a group of people, sourcing all their materials, putting effort into making the product, putting love and care in the packaging and then sending it off. “You get amazing customer service, and they try to give the best product quality and service”, is what the owner of Almost Ambivalent said when asked, “What are the pros to shopping small?” We can see a clear divide between big corporations such as H&M and Zara. Small businesses keep the goal of wanting to give you “the best product quality” in contrast to big corporations who (most of the time) are just trying to make their own pocket heavier. 

When shopping small

“You are supporting an individual or a small group of people, you could be contributing to someone’s dream or livelihood. Indirectly contributing to the community in contrast to some corporate’s pocket”, said the owner of Almost Ambivalent.

It’s understandable to not always be able to shop ethically and sustainably, but shopping small is a great way to do both for a great price and for helping someone’s dreams. When shopping for yourself, for friends, family, festivals try shopping small! Even if it’s a small item, it goes a long way. Next time you are purchasing from fast fashion or a large corporation, remember there’s another, better, environment-friendly and ethically better way to get the trendiest new pieces! 

Pritha Nag is 9th Grader in Ascend. She loves reading and writing and channelling her thoughts and opinions through her articles. Her hobbies include, reading, article-writing and journalling. Pritha believes that everyone should use their power and platform to spread positivity and good messages.