In a world based on speculation, popularity, and social relevance, nothing makes sense in the fashion system nowadays. Globalization leads the biggest brands to a new opportunity: export their goods all around the world in pursuit of cheaper deals in terms of materials and labor.
cheaper + faster + higher volume = great success + bigger income
When the prices are set by the brands making the clothes and not because of the fabric costs themselves, obviously the label on your t-shirt is the most valuable thing you are wearing. Briefly, the 2019 fashion industry value is based on the awareness every huge company has of its power and the value our minds think their products gives us. Simplifying the complexity of the process, I’ll try to summarize the reasons why I feel there is a disconnection between the consumers and the goods.
The distance between the production location and the purchase location of our products has grown a lot in the last few years. At the same time, there was a decrease in the amount of accountability and transparency (the possibility to easily calculate the taxes and the final prices of the good in every phase of the economic cycle) in the whole supply chain. If you’re asking who suffers all these changes, the answer is people, the planet, and even yourself as the end consumer.
The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the entire world only behind oil: every process is made in a different country destroying the environment because of chemicals, dyeing process, water wastage, genetically modified cotton, polyester, energy-intensive fiber, microplastic, … Adding to these problems are the correlated abuses in the supply chain such as child labor and the forced labor, we are systematically holding people in a cycle of extreme poverty.
From the capitalistic perspective this has been great but being unaware consumers is dangerous for our planet and our lives.
On the other hand, fifteen bucks for a pair of jeans or twenty-five for a sweater is something our generation created, something we are addicted to, and something we are stuck in. The compulsory need to buy new clothes every less-than-necessary days and the habit of disposable consumption, are deeply rooted in our lives.
Buying&buying is not only a problem for the future, but also damaging at the time of the purchase: we do not reflect on the desire of what we are actually buying but we anticipate the desire of what is coming next.
After all, what we call fast fashion doesn’t always mean saving money: it’s something good for our wallet at the moment we decide to purchase a piece but, in the end, what really happens is that we buy more and our closets are bigger.
Could there be a better way?
On the production side, thinking about the workforce, the list of the goals should be something like this:
beyond fair trade wages
healthy working environment
investing in the well being of the producers
take care of their families
professional development training
Perceiving these and not the profit-making would have consequences for future generations such as:
better community life
Focusing on the environmental side, we already have the technology for cleaner forms of energy, we already have the technology for better fibers than polyester: the change is real. Also, competing with huge brands is daunting but still not impossible because caring means quality, quality means having a competitive price point and that’s possible even maintaining a healthy margin.
Even if dreaming about a healthier production world is beautiful, consumption choices are the key: when it comes to governments, they have the ability to enforce these changes, but every market is pointless if demand is absent.
smarter consumer = smarter system
I have tried to design a list of the goals everyone should have as a consumer:
understand methodology & processes
return fashion to what it once was:
I talked a lot about our role in this economic cycle, but what actually happens to us?
We constantly make assumptions about who people are, what they do, and where they’re from simply based on the way they dress. It’s nothing new. Our wardrobes reflect a lot about us: what country we live in, how much money we make, what society expects from us. Possibly more than any other cultural artifact, fashion is a sensitive measure of what’s going on in society at the time. Everyone, after all, wears clothes.
Following this trend, it is easy to read history through fashion. As time passes, situations changed: empire rose and fell, technology advanced, culture became more or less conservative and bla bla bla. All these things have affected the way people dress.
But fashion isn’t simply about blending in with the people around us; it’s also about self-identity, and it’s very much about choices. Fashion allows us to declare who we want to be. When it comes to fast fashion, this analysis suddenly stops making sense.
What happens every time a new season, the next collection, the following trend, hits the scene? What do we observe every time there is a different value and, consequentially, a different personality in the market?
If the quality goes down, the desire to increase profits is what produces the clothes and the colorless/banal/lifeless ideas will look all exactly the same as much as we do. Buying with no consciousness leads us to represent ourselves and even who we are as cheaper & identical.
We grow every day, we learn, we teach, we love/hate and, in the end, we get old. Sometimes we have a metamorphosis and our ideas or relationships sink, but we don’t, the person we are doesn’t.
To wear what you want is a privilege, it’s something that somewhere else can have consequences, it’s something that one day could be taken away from us. Be who you are is a privilege.
I feel the urgent need to find a connection between the outside me and what I represent.
I feel the need to mentally move away from the hype
I don’t care anymore about conforming and I have to celebrate that.
Instead of being invisible, we should choose to be looked at just by wearing something different: that’s the power of fashion. It can communicate our differences to the world around us.
We should love ourselves as much as we love the clothes we wear: try to love yourself more, and when in need to feel just a little bit unfaithful, shop at Zara.