Monday, August 18, 2014

FROM QUANTITY TO QUALITY, QUESTIONABLE TO ETHICAL


Hello and hi for being away for so long!

I apologize for the sporadic behavior concerning my blog- I've been doing a lot of things lately in preparation for college and just enjoying what's left of my summer- I've just gotten back from my trip to Vegas, so an upcoming travel post will make its rounds soon! Also, in addition to college shopping, I've finally gotten myself a MacBook Pro, so I'm happy I have a computer for my own personal use! Learning to use it has been pretty fun.

Aside from that, I've been meaning to touch upon a certain issue I've been wanting to write about for the past 2-3 weeks, which would be concerning the topic of fast fashion, sustainability and ethically made products. I want to write on this topic as accurately as possible and to the absolute best of my knowledge, so forgive me if I word certain parts ugly.

Firstly, let me touch up on the things I've seen from personal experience as a style blogger so far. Generally fashion bloggers, especially ones with huge social platforms, tend to be the biggest influencers of certain brands and products such as shoes, bags, and the like. In fact, due to this type of influence, items such as the Balenciaga Ceinture Ankle Boots and the PS11 bag have become standard "blogger items" as highlighted by the blog Shit Bloggers Wear. There was a certain period of time a couple of months ago where it wasn't uncommon for me to come across a few blogs where many female bloggers were wearing the infamous Zara skort, while the rest were donning other staple blogger pieces such as Kenzo sweaters and Chanel Boy bags (even though I love me some Chanel). It got to the point where it turned into a cliche of sorts, devaluing the timelessness of the item/brand and turning it into a spur of the moment season trend. And keep in mind that there are thousands of other bloggers who would love to have the real deal, but can't afford to do so because hey, not everyone has $500 to throw at some Charlotte Olympia flats; so why not get a cheaper, low cost version that looks just like the real thing? And this is where fast fashion comes in.

Here is an excerpt from a PDF article that succinctly defines the meaning of 'fast fashion':

The fashion apparel industry has significantly evolved, particularly over the last 20 years. The changing dynamics of the fashion industry have forced retailers to desire low cost and flexibility in design, quality, and speed to market, key strategies to maintain a profitable position in the increasingly demanding market.
Fast Fashion: Response to Changes in the Fashion Industry
Vertica Bhardwaj and Ann Fairhurst
The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research
Vol. 20, No. 1, February 2010

They also go on to say this:

Today’s fashion market is highly competitive and the constant need to ‘refresh’ product ranges means that there is an inevitable move by many retailers to extend the number of ‘seasons’, that is, the frequency with which the entire merchandise within a store is changed. With the emergence of small collections of merchandise, fashion retailers are encouraging consumers to visit their stores more frequently with the idea of ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’. This indicates a shorter life cycle and higher profit margins from the sale of fast selling merchandise, skipping the mark-down process altogether (Sydney 2008).
Fast Fashion: Response to Changes in the Fashion Industry
Vertica Bhardwaj and Ann Fairhurst
The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research
Vol. 20, No. 1, February 2010

So to break it down for you- fast fashion basically is producing materials as fast as possible, equaling fast profit for companies. Natural resources used to make such garments and accessories are harvested quickly, processed quickly, shipped over quickly to retailers, and bought fast. By selling short lived fashion trends to consumers, or fads, big fashion retailers like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara stand to make a killing off of this type of production. But as a result of such rapid production, the clothing industry makes the product as cheap as possible, in terms of cost and quality. And consequently, these very same clothes are thrown away as quickly as they were bought.

The fast fashion production process has harmful, long lasting effects. First, the environmental effects. An enormous amount of water and energy is put into the production process- resources that could be used for sustainable living conditions- and many meet their final destination in a landfill, or end up releasing large amounts of emissions and harmful gases into the atmosphere. Secondly, the health/safety risk on the consumers. Quite frankly, you'd be surprised at how much toxic, hazardous materials go into the production of items and clothing that we use daily. So if you're wondering why your new bag smells weird, it's probably the chemicals talking. Lastly, how are the workers who produce these products being treated? Many, if not all, are subject to low pay, making just a few cents per hour under dangerous safety conditions. Even after the tragic collapse of a factory building in Bangladesh killed over 1000 female workers, few people were tuned into sustainability and ethical issues surrounding fashion. Fast fashion makes consumption easier for the typical, noncommittal consumer, especially at a time where we are all counting our pennies.

So what was the point of me correlating my personal experiences with facts surrounding fast fashion? Well, for every blogger or model that wears a Balenciaga boot, rest assured there will be many others wearing a similar knockoff, purchased from fashion retailers and Chinese wholesale sites that didn't cost them a couple grand. How about Alexander Wang's 'Parental Advisory' shirt- I've seen it around a few times as well. Keep in mind it's not only big name fashion retailers that partake in this, sites such as SheInside and the like have clothes that are more often than not made in sweatshop conditions. And I feel that as fashion bloggers and consumers, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and others about these sort of things. Hell, a year ago I would have jumped at the chance to be sponsored by Romwe. But I've always believed in quality over quantity, and now I will make a conscious effort to go, 'questionable or ethical'?

Even though I can't promise that I won't buy anything from Zara fast fashion retailers, being aware of how fast fashion has such an adverse effect on our environment and our health will definitely make me more aware of what I choose to spend my money on, and what my brain 'thinks' I need. But I can make a promise to myself- moving forward, I want to support brands on this blog that make their products ethically, with sustainable fashion and of course, fashionable appeal. After all, who needs lookalike designer items when you can get fashion integrity points from thrifting preloved luxury items, or saving to buy the real thing? It may be hard, yes, but definitely possible. By doing this, you can also save the earth, look great, and feel a bit better about yourself.

Thanks for reading this long winded post! Feel free to comment on your views on sustainable/ethical fashion.

5 comments:

  1. Stephanie this is fantastic!! I've absolutely loved reading your article. You write so well!
    You've hit the nail on the head. Fast fashion is by no means a sustainable option for the fashion industry. The environmental and ethical implications, as well as the hoards of low quality lookalike items that everyone is pacifying themselves with, that are all products of the fast production and consumption culture make me feel sick about the fashion industry - and i hate that! I want to be able to love such a diverse and imaginative world!
    Saving up to buy fewer, better quality garments would be the ideal. I wish we could go back a century ago, when you would invest in a well tailored coat and take good care of it and have it for life, instead of just until the next influx of 'must-have' styles arrive.
    Aaah sorry this has got really long and ramble-y...but if you fancy reading more about this, try To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle. It's a fab book!
    -Kate x

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    1. Thank you for your response! I appreciate it.
      Your blog and a couple others got me thinking hard about this subject, and it's so important since as bloggers we sell not just a product, but an image to our followers.

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  2. Absolutely loved reading this, i have quite strong feelings about this subject and you really did a great job at putting your views across.
    Loved it.
    helloellenor
    - ellie

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  3. very visually arresting and fun article dear!! me super enjoyed reading it ♥ ♥

    New post on the blog gorgeous!
    http://michaelmacalos.com

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  4. Really well written. This is something that I've been thinking about a lot, as I just finished reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. I think that's definitely a book you'd be interested in based upon your concern for this topic. At the end of the day, we all need to be more selective in purchasing clothing and realize that volume doesn't equate to good style.

    www.enduringethereal.com

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