So, three things have happened recently that are inter-related and have caused me to do a complete 180 on my wardrobe.
1) I started reading Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed: The high cost of cheap fashion. It made feel that I shouldn't indulge in cheap fashion anymore, and the reason was twofold. One, the obvious one, that the people that make my clothes are not paid enough to do it, and live in poverty and 2) the fashion industry has devolved into a world where clothes are defined by great design, but not great quality.
2) A bunch of my clothes, which I bought from a trendy fashion chain and are trendy like clothes I've never had before, have started falling apart. Now, considering the cost and effort of repairing them, I have been considering replacing them. They were cheap and cost me $30, so why not just replace them?
3) Kanye West was interviewed by novelist Bret Easton Ellis last week and had a great quote, which book-ended a lot of the stories in Elizabeth Clines book and struck a chord with me as a philosophy worth following. He said “I got into this giant argument with the head of Zappos that he’s trying to tell me what I need to focus on,” West told Ellis. “Meanwhile, he sells all this shit product to everybody, his whole thing is based off of selling shit product."
He also said he was “super dedicated to awesomeness, and making things better.”
So why does Cline despair about the industry and why does West feel that he needs to make things better?
The fashion industry, made up of industry giants like Zara, Forever 21, ASOS, Zappos and many more, are just not able to give us quality product.
Yet they are able to give us great design. Why? The demand we as consumers put on them to keep prices low and the speed in which we need them to get the clothing lines out to us.
The process of fast fashion means they literally copy styles right off the runaway and get them in and of the stores quickly. Lax copyright laws mean that styles can be copied without recrimination. This is great for you and I, as design teams can slap the latest photos from Paris fashion week into a computer program and have the finished product on the retail floor in two weeks.
But where are the designers in all this? Aren't they responsible for the clothing they put out? No.
A designer designs, and if the price point for their designs is too high to keep to low prices consumers demand, then operations teams in the fashion houses will ask for a cheaper design or they will redesign it themselves. Designers in places like Forever 21 barely even see their designs make it to the retail floor.
Look, I'm not slagging people for buying cheap clothes, lord knows we lived through too many years of poor design. I'm just asking you to consider where your clothes come from (Bangladesh, China), what they're made of (non-biodegradable Polyester) and think about what this industry is doing to the people that have to work in these factories and live in these cities. And think about what it's doing to the way we perceive fashion. With great design should come great quality.
There are ethical fashion choices out there, companies that won't accept anything less than quality products that are also fashionable.
And people like Kanye, who want only the best for us, and who want to move on from a world of unethical and poor quality fashion, are what we desperately need.