"If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it. "
- Andy Rooney
Fashion is everywhere we look. It has become an indispensable part of the modern world where everyone wants to be fashionable. In this post, we will attempt to examine the changing landscape of fashion vis-a-vis the consumerism and the ultra-materialistic angle it has turned to.
Fashion Evolution over the Years:
To eﬀectively analyze something, it is always better to go back to the start, where it all began. Human beings didn’t always wear clothes since inception. Over time, we started covering our bodies with animal skins or leaves, etc.as a protective measure from prevalent environmental factors.
We have no hard shells, no furs or scales like the other members of the animal kingdom and that’s why we needed the extra help from available materials to help shield our oh-so-delicate bodies. Yes, clothing is one of the essential pillars for human survival – food, shelter and clothing; but it took some time to get there. Over centuries of advancement and development, it has no longer remained just an essential, but has acquired a status of lifestyle symbol.
Fashion is equated with individuality and identity. It is deemed to be an expression of oneself and is most deﬁnitely (and successfully) marketed as such. Fashion has become an integral part of human life and also the economy with the fashion industry being a multi-billion-dollar industry employing millions1 worldwide. It has in many ways penetrated the lives of people and has even deﬁned generations. No matter what anyone says about it, truth of the matter remains that fashion and the impact that it has cannot be ignored.
What Dictates Fashion Consumption In The Present Time?
Consumption was driven by “need”. People bought what they needed, and it was that simple. Slowly, consumption became inﬂuenced by want; and now with access to an endless supply of materialistic galore, it is most deﬁnitely fueled by “greed”. It is rather amusing how clothing has morphed from a utility to a vessel for self-expression, ostentation, mindless consumption and exploitation. Incessant and meticulously thought out marketing directed towards the masses has distorted the idea of clothing and embedded the seed of endless want inside the consumers.
Clothes are now a manifestation of our materialistic pursuits and this has only skyrocketed with the social media boom. Consumers are being fed images and ideas under the garb of fashion and they are consuming it mindlessly. It’s safe to say that we are now more materialistic than ever.
Consumers always want more, and they want it pronto. And from this demand, rose the menace that is fast fashion. So, what is this “fast fashion”? Like food turned into fast food (a.k.a. junk food) and brought with it empty calories and sodium all in the name of getting ready made food for the people on the go; fashion turned into fast fashion – cheaper, trendier, easier to procure, faster and absolutely unsustainable. And brownie points to fast fashion for very cleverly blinding people into buying more and more often than they need to.
The Truth Behind Fast Fashion
The apparel industry was already one of the top pollutants of our planet and the rise of fast fashion has only solidiﬁed its status as an industry that operates on greed and doesn’t care about the trails it leaves2. Fast fashion, like the name suggests, is fashion that is fast. And because it is “fast”, little to no attention is paid to the quality, durability or wear-ability (sustainability isn’t anywhere close to being a concern). Moreover, it is cheaper and thus, it attracts more people towards it. The primary focus of fast fashion is to bring to consumers the latest trends as seen on social media and celebrities straight to their closets. And this hits the right chords with the consumers who want to look like their celebrity idols and pose for a picture in that fast fashion outﬁt.
Fast fashion items were destined to live in the darkness of the closet after being worn a maximum 5 times (even lesser if photographed and posted on social media) until it landed up in the trash. The people buying these items are more focused on choosing the right colour, ﬁt and looking good for the occasion. Asking questions about where the clothes came from, who made it and what will it become after being worn isn’t a concern consumer bother themselves with. And this attitude is alarming to say the least.
There are countless fashion brands across the globe releasing multiple collections over a single year3. And to make these clothes (much of which ends up in landﬁlls eventually), thousands of workers (including children4) work incessantly in terrible conditions and are severely underpaid. The workers in this industry are exploited and this is fueled by the high demand that arises from our materialistic tendencies. We allow the ads and the sellers to convince us that we need something that we don’t; we thus, unknowingly contribute to an endless vicious chain of demand and supply.
This “devil may care” attitude towards something that is such a staple part of modern-day has led to severe environmental and humanitarian concerns. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that if this goes on, we might very soon experience devastating consequences of overconsumption.
What Does Our Blind Consumption Of Fast Fashion Say About Us?
Most of us buy clothes on impulse. I am certain that many of us have new clothes that we have never worn (except maybe in the trial room) yet, that doesn’t pull us away from our next shopping trip. Because giving in to the urge of having the latest trendy clothes is more satisfactory than wearing the old style of last season and risking rebuke from onlookers. We now have shopping services on our ﬁngertips; so whether I am in the washroom idly scrolling through my screen or I am in a boring meeting, I can purchase a dress and ensure it reaches me within a stipulated time. Sure, it is absolutely convenient.
But did I absolutely need to buy it? Perhaps not. Maybe I could have opted to style an old dress diﬀerently or taken more eﬀorts and bought an up-cycled one that would be more ethical. But, I chose not to because “Too much eﬀort”. I believe that our purchasing habits are a clear reﬂection of how much we have become slaves to easiness and superﬁciality.
It is rather easy to be smitten by the convenience that fast fashion offers. But one mustn’t forget that although fast fashion items come with a cheaper price tag, their long-term aftereffects in a grander scheme may be something the whole of humanity cannot pay. It is a resultant of our greed for more and it can only be tackled with our collective effort towards accessing more sustainable solutions. With this post, I invite you to pay a little more attention to the clothes that we buy, the alternatives that we have, and the choices that we make because that could go a long way in making lives easier for others as well as for our planet. Perhaps with each small conscious step we take, we can become more human. You are invited.