A couple of weeks ago I told you I wanted to write some pieces that were both stylish and substantial. This is the first and I hope you’ll tell me what you think in comments below.
The motivation behind these writings has roots in personal experience. Despite being a (very) bright girl, my lifelong interest in fashion over fractions and pop culture over ancient culture has often alienated me from academic peers. More than once, I encountered professors or classmates who took my outward enthusiasm for such seemingly frivolous pursuits to mean I wasn’t (very) bright. As Miranda Priestly points out in the Devil Wears Prada, this mistaken correlation of fashion and non-seriousness couldn’t be further from the truth. I said it in my first-ever Fawkeshunter post, “frivolous” fashion was the catalyst that propelled me to learn about art, history and culture. Today, as I delve further into the industry, I realize fashion isn’t just a great lens for studying the past, but understanding the present as well.
Among the most pressing fashion-related issues presently impacting the world is the rise of fast fashion. The issue’s been on my mind more than usual this month following a recent H&M announcement of a program allowing customers to “recycle” garments of any brand in its stores worldwide and, in exchange, received a 15% discount off an item of choice. According to H&M, up to 95% of discarded clothing could be reworn, reused or recycled. It’s the first global garment collecting initiative of it’s kind and, if successful, could help substantially reduce this waste and the carbon footprint of textile manufacturing around the world. Perhaps more importantly it, like these words, could substantially raise consumer awareness and impact fashion buying decisions.
If you’re not familiar with the term fast fashion, you’re certainly familiar with the fact that retailers of all sizes are producing and delivering inexpensive fashions that copy trends within weeks, if not days, of them walking the runway or red carpet. This is fast fashion. On the surface it’s awesome. Especially for someone like me who’s supposed to be trendy and stylish at all times. Thanks to fast fashion, I can look ahead-of-trend without having to splash out for an exclusively designer wardrobe (I wish, not there yet…).
But looking good comes at a price. Consumers have become accustomed to easy, affordable access to trends and are (understandably) demanding more, faster and cheaper. And, while this demand means more jobs in the garment industry, often in developing nations, it doesn’t guarantee stellar working conditions. Nor does it guarantee environmentally friendly, or even environmentally sound, manufacturing processes. It also makes it easy to throw away a nearly new, stained shirt because it’s cheap and easy to get a replacement. The frenetic pace at which we produce and consume fashion risks making us all careless and unaware of the impact our wardrobes have on people and places thousands of miles away. And, that hurts every one.
This isn’t a new issue, but H&M’s announcement does shift the impact of our fashion consumption from something most often debated in academic and industry circles to something that everyday people around the world can take action on. I’m a believer that to solve problems you have to give people uncomplicated access to take action. It’s unrealistic to think that every consumer will research the supply and value chains of their apparel or what to do with garments that have reached the end of their life cycle. I haven’t. But I have made a point to know H&M is leading the charge in ensuring first part of the equation, responsible production of apparel, is addressed. Their leadership, and public pressure, have prompted others to do the same by 2020. H&M completes the cycle with their new global collection initiative, set to roll out to stores in February 2013. Here’s hoping it catches on.
Now, my goal in sharing these and future deep thoughts with you isn’t to present a solution or draw some hard political stance on issues, which some may find as a cop-out. I’m a stylist. My job is to help you look and feel your best. Where it all ties together is my conviction that carrying yourself with true style is as much about being well-spoken and informed as it is looking good. Hopefully this makes you better informed so, just as with your fashion choices, you can make decisions that work for you.
Photos: Twentieth Century Fox, Overdressed, H&M