What would Pavlov and his dogs say about fast fashion?
They would say stop salivating at the mouth over those Zara boots – they won’t keep your chic little toes very warm, or last you till next Fall.
In her book Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, Dana Thomas makes a sly comment that the postmodern fashion world “has bulimia.”
Perhaps the metaphor is a bit insensitive, but it shook me to the core a bit. When it comes to analyzing our unhealthy, toxic relationship with fashion and consuming clothing — it’s safe to say that things are pretty serious, but we remained unbothered.
As a teen studying fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion, I felt that I needed to write about serious political topics. I thought it was my duty as a wannabe journalist, writer or whatever I was trying to be.
However, I quickly found this completely empty. You cannot change the way people think by telling them they might be part of the issue. (WE ALL ARE.) People usually want to find a scapegoat that isn’t them (or their religion, race, etc.). Sadly, the truth is just not relevant and no one wants to hear why when it comes to big spooky topics. Even being PC is now a controversial word. Cancel culture has all of us afraid to be the polemicist. Being a contrarian is frightful.
Needless to say, I felt defeated by engaging with topics that were big and heavy. They didn’t really impact me… or so I thought. Back then, I didn’t think my average wardrobe had any relevance to the ‘bigger issues’ that were sustainability in fashion.
But as I took time to get therapy for my own orderly disorders, where I worked towards maintaining healthy relationships, I realized that my own wardrobe was one of those people! I had an unhealthy dependency on my average wardrobe. I’d tell myself it was because of the industry I was in. In reality, however, my wardrobe was filled with too many cheap thrills and signs of non-commitment — it was anything but healthy.
My wardrobe was not average I thought — it was a reflection of my own unhealthy consumption patterns. It made me feel average about something I love: clothes. I knew good fashion from studying it — and I also knew that it was NOT what I was dealing with in my own wardrobe. Fast fashion sucked the fun out of clothing for me.
You can’t escape until you do — by over-consuming temporary hits of happiness.
Fashion really did have a major case of bulimia. While our technology and other things that amp up our consumption habits have flourished, our morals have done the complete opposite. Not to mention, fashion has become too commercialized for consumers to really care about clothing’s history or production.
Buying — and then disposing of — all this fashion was just its own session of binging and purging. The quick kind that will last you 4 months. You know what I’m talking about – look at yourself. Look at your feeds — do you ever post in the same outfit? Wear the same dress to two different events? The same top?
I wasn’t even sure if I really loved clothes anymore, or if I just loved the way buying clothes made me feel. But how are we supposed to act when a dress can cost you as much as a fast-food combo? That was the issue I realized. Clothing is made to make us feel, more than it is to make us fashionable. So many times I have found myself shopping (usually in fast fashion shops) because I was sad, bored, lonely, etc.
And guess what? That’s exactly how fashion shops want you to feel. No surprise really there really, capitalism wasn’t something I had issues digesting — but I was starting to feel a little taken advantage of. I had to start setting healthy boundaries when it came to clothes because I was addicted to buying them.
I realized that there was psychosomatics splattered all over the clothing crisis. It preys on our psychs and morphed the once esoteric, niche fashion industry into an unavoidable bad habit. As the industry grows and grows into the behemoth that it is, it has become more sellable to the masses. This has made our own perceptions of clothing and consuming it so overdrawn and microwaved. This is what’s made fast fashion so dangerous to the planet.
Needless to say, this was something over my head and out of my own control. This was a huge issue. When I thought of fashion, I thought of Milan, New York, London and Paris. I thought of the girls in Toronto I grew up with, and the ones who were buying it all the time. The ones I never thought of though were the ones in Bangladesh or Vietnam making it. The ones who make up most of the “fashion industry.” The ones who always are unheard, unseen and underpaid.
I needed to do something because it’s the small things in life we have to romanticize and the big things that we have to be realists about. Rethinking my own habits and starting conversations may just make a small difference, but that’s better than nothing I decided.
Featured Image courtesy of @1granary via Instagram