What Your Fashion Doesn’t Say About You
My mom always told me, “It’s better to buy one piece of clothing that will last you years, rather than buying ten pieces of clothing that will last you three months.” Fashion and clothes are constantly influencing my creativity and confidence, making it hard not to buy something new and unique every other week. However, whenever I buy something new I make sure that I get rid of clothing I don’t wear that much anymore. As I look at the clothes I have kept through these cycles of fashion, I’ve noticed that majority of the clothes I’ve thrown out are pieces that I’ve purchased at stores such as H&M or Forever 21. I never found much fashion appeal to these kinds of stores, I would only shop there if I wanted something specific, cheap, and easy to find. I think it’s safe to say, people are more tempted to buy “fashionable” pieces if it’s at a bargain price.
Fast Fashion…or Faux Fashion?
Fashion is the easiest form of art to help us express who we are as individuals. The clothing we put together introduce the type of person we wish to present to the world. There is a difference between fashion and style. Style is based on the individual, it can be used to inspire but never fully imitated. However, fashion is recycled in terms of originality. If you tend to shop at thrift stores or wear your parents clothing from decades ago you can notice a repetition of fashion trends. Designers from New York and Paris fashion week are inspired by past fashion trends, but they also reinvent the idea of it. Fashion designers go through the process of creating new and different collections that take a lot of effort and credibility. However, that is not the case for fashion retailers like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 that are picking up these trends months before the runway and merely copying them in mass production at least than half the wholesale price of the original. The objective for these brands is to create clothing that’s cheap and easy to discard in order to keep a constant flow of consumers to buy more and more clothes than needed. This is known as fast fashion.
I never really took into consideration what fast fashion really entailed other than everyone I knew shopped at these stores. Even on Youtube, the popularity of haul videos and lookbooks influenced what people should buy to include in their wardrobe for that season. I got tired of the title of being “fashionable” because to me it looked like everyone was the same. I drifted away from Youtube videos and found myself watching documentaries about fashion such as Bill Cunningham New York (Gefter & Press, 2010) and Jeremy Scott the People’s Designer (Mejia & Yudin, 2015). These documentaries influenced how I view fashion creatively; however, the documentary The True Cost (Ross & Morgan, 2015) influenced how I viewed fashion ethically.
Most people are unaware of the realities faced in the production process. We never really question why something is cheap because in this generation that’s what we crave, but we can always question why something is more expensive when the style of clothing is very similar. What doesn’t make sense is how clothing can be cheap but also produced in such high volume. This is something to ask these retailers, or rather expose them.
Behind the Scenes of ‘Fashion’
The extent in which retailers are willing to go to are not done in an ethical or responsible manner. The majority of our clothing is no longer made in the U.S because of the cost it takes to produce at high volumes quickly. American brands such as Gap are noticing a decrease in sales because of the inability to make clothes at an instantaneous, profitable rate. The price it costs to manufacture clothing that fast is being encumbered on low wage laborers many whom are women from a different country. According to the article “Gap’s Fashion-Backward Moment” by Hiroko Tabuchi and Hilary Stout, “it will be difficult for Gap and other American brands to catch up to the likes of Zara, for example, which owns garment factories around the world, giving it a measure of control that permits a quick response to emerging trends”. Retailers are quick to favor their consumers in terms of service, but discount their employee’s interest. In 2013, the attention of labor injustice was noted in Bangladesh when around 1,1oo of garment workers were killed due to the dangerous environment in which they work in. The cost of their life did not change the cost of our clothing (New York Times, 2017).
The safety of these factories still have not been met. In Rachel Abrams post “Retailers Like H&M and Walmart Fall short of Pledges to Overseas Workers”, she brings attention to the promises that were never fulfilled to fast fashion employees. Abrams says, “As of 2015, nearly 79,000 workers continued to produce garments for H&M in Bangladesh in buildings without proper fire exits, according to the Wage Alliance” (2016). The ratio of wages and safety do not add up to the reality these people face. Not only do these factory owners provide a space that is unsafe for our workers but also unsafe for our environment.
Fast fashion is another form of waste that damages our environment. In the article “Can Polyester Save the World?” Elisabeth Rosenthal reveals that, “…fast clothes in particular — are a large and worsening source of the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, because of how they are both produced and cared for…” We do not think of clothing when it comes to environmental sustainability. Usually we focus on plastic products but not the recycling of clothing. Rosenthal suggests that the use of sustainability can be changed in the type of fabric used. When it comes to clothes the consideration of quality should be implemented and can be useful in a way that does not force us to waste clothing.
Fashion is meant to express who we are and what we stand for and how our clothing is made should represent that as well. Fast fashion companies make it easy for us to ignore the negative parts of production. We have the need to keep up with trends at a reasonable price, but there are other options (thrifting or local boutiques). The stake of having something new for only a season does not take away the damage of human rights and the environment. We can help these causes by shopping smart and being aware of the things we buy. Not only will it help us to limit our waste but reinvent the phenomenon of what fashion is.
Abrams, Rachel. “Retailers Like H&M and Walmart Fall Short of Pledges to Overseas Workers.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 May 2016. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Rosenthal, Elisabeth. “Can Polyester Save the World?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Jan. 2007. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Sattar, Rachel Abrams and Maher. “Protests in Bangladesh Shake a Global Workshop for Apparel.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 22 Jan. 2017. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Stout, Hiroko Tabuchi and Hilary. “Gap’s Fashion-Backward Moment.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 June 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.