Expounding upon one Leandra Medine’s recent post, “In Defense of Slow Fashion”: fast fashion kills.
This is not a nice conversation to have, it is not a fashionable subject to speak about, it is not a feel-good realization to come to. But it must be considered every time you reach for that $20, fresh-out-of-its-plastic-wrap, fresh off the freight liner, oh-so-trendy piece of clothing: who made this thing I am about to purchase? How much were they paid to make this thing? In what kind of conditions did they make this thing? Were the coerced or forced to make this thing? Did they have breakfast the day they made this thing? How old were they? And most importantly, do I support the the implications of the answers to these questions?
If they answer to that last question is no, put it down.
If this image of the garment worker who made your clothes is too abstract, too far away to be considered relevant in your purchasing decision, think instead of the retail workers that surround you in whatever fast fashion retailer you happen to find yourself in. These people work tirelessly at thankless jobs, often under management pressured to keep full-time staff to a minimum, scheduling part-timers for 39.5 hours a week to avoid the certain doom of a health insurance violation. These workers toil at all hours of the day, unpacking boxes, snapping censors onto garments, folding and re-folding, hocking credit cards to cushion the company’s bottom line all while being paid a pittance and being told to be grateful for an $0.11 raise, the first in two years. Do I support the corporations that turn a blind eye to the very people that make their successes possible?
Clearly, I acknowledge that not everyone can afford to pay $50 for a t-shirt, much less $350 for a pair of fine shoes. Generally speaking, neither can I. I admit that those adorable Asos shoes haunted me until of course I bought them. At $30 with free shipping, who wouldn’t? The point here is that all those five, ten, and twenty dollar purchases add up over time to piles of clothes that will last for only a few wears, ultimately ending up in landfills the world over. If the focus was instead on purchasing a well-crafted item made to last, the overall amount of money spent on clothing and the total amount of clothing purchased would both be reduced.
It is difficult to battle the indoctrinated consumer attitude required by our capitalist society. And I don’t think we will ever be fully free from its implications. What we can do is become more conscious consumers, people who use our minds to think critically about the origins of our potential purchase. The key is a change in our overall mindset. When I am pining for something new when I can’t afford something I know is well made from a reputable and responsible brand, I shop for vintage or handmade items on Etsy or scour my local thrift store for a good find. In that way I know I am not contributing to the supply demands of poor-quality garments made in poor working conditions by individuals—human beings with lives and families and joys and stresses like yours and mine—who may never live to see the day when their hard work earns them enough money to actually buy the clothing they create. It’s no novel concept, just quality over quantity at its finest.
That is my defense of slow fashion. It is not just the intricacy of the design, the weight of the silk between your fingers, nor the beautiful French seaming that warrants the desire for so-called slow fashion. It is the fact that you can proudly don a garment knowing that its path to you was not fraught with forced and underpaid labor, over-consumption of resources, and mindlessly low production standards.
Until next time,