Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Superficial Face of Fashion


An article by Lucy Siegle in today’s Observer Why fast fashion is slow death for the planet explores the problems of fast fashion: overflowing wardrobes, reduced league times, overworked and underpaid factory workers, stellar fiscal achievements and the fashion consumers lust for more fore less and disregard. I make a point of mentioning this article as there was a particular reference I had not come across before:

Perhaps that mindset explains why a fashion industry commentator watched in horror as she saw one satisfied customer emerge from Primark's flagship Oxford Circus store with six or seven brown paper bags full of clothes. It was raining heavily, and as the young woman proceeded down Oxford Street one of them broke around the handles and folded cotton flopped on to the pavement. Naturally the journalist expected the girl to bend down and collect the clothes, but no. She just walked on. Fashion was apparently so expendable it had turned into litter.


On my many trips via Oxford Circus to university or even through Coventry city town centre (my home town with the largest Primark store in the UK when it was built in around 2008) I see a countless number of women, both young and old, carrying at least two large brown paper bags. My reaction is always the same: being overcome with shivers. I feel the same when entering a Primark store, yet combined with a glazed sense of attending a farm or cattle market; clothes strewn across their displays taking the form of a laundry pile, miserable staff shuffling about not even attempting to clean up, escalators that herd you around the store in order to get up or down and customers trailblazing around grabbing, dropping and eventually chucking in those oversized baskets that resemble buckets. On top of this the queues are horrendous, almost robotic and airport like. I repeat the same question to myself when leaving; ‘Do people enjoy this?’ Perhaps this experience is ultimately part of the fashion procedure for many, likened to the frustrating process of separating egg whites in order to produce the ultimate meringue.


After reading the above paragraph that shiver again possessed my body, however much deeper: I felt sad. A newly brought fashion piece means so little to its owner they are willing to dispose of it before even consuming it. It begs the question: ‘has fashion or clothing in general become superficial?’

Lets not kid ourselves, the fashion industry has always been a little shallow quick to snipe an others in out of date wears, but it always seem to connect to us emotionally. Perhaps with reference to the girl mentioned above we no longer desire or need this emotional connection.

Many sustainable fashion writers and designers discuss the need to maintain and encourage this emotional connection. But are we missing the point before us, perhaps people want fashion that they can consume without a care? Perhaps designers and writers should explore sustainable methods of creating clothing to allow for this change in the consumer.

What are you views? Are both areas of research viable?