What are the ramifications of fast fashion?

Thursday, 16 January 2014
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I liken fast fashion to fast food. It’s instant gratification, cheap, plentiful and tastes great but makes you feel sick afterwards. There are ramifications to your health later in life if you’ve consumed too much of it. The same applies to fast fashion. While the repercussions aren’t health related, they’re no less important. It’s easy to get sucked into it when you’re looking at a sweater that cost no more than £17 or £10 for a pair of jeans. You rationalize. It’s ONLY £10 but these small figures do add up with frequent consumption and before you know it, the total of your credit card statement is staggering. I’m speaking from experience here……..

High street brands are essentially a vehicle to satiate our voracious appetite for fashion. They’re smart to jump on the bandwagon to milk it for what it’s worth. It’s a causal effect of supply and demand or is it the other way round?  They’ll always be someone entrepreneurial enough to meet a need. The main objective of collaborations with popular designers (Isabel Marant pour H&M comes to mind) is  to reel those with supposedly more sophisticated palette and deeper pocket to move over to the dark side. If this demographic of potential customers can afford to spend £800 on a coat, imagine how often they will frequent the store? The designer gets a huge payout, the company gets a ton of publicity,  plenty of foot traffic and sales. The general public are given the rare opportunity to purchase expensive designer clothes at basement bargain prices. So in effect, win-win-win. Or is it? 

Somebody has to pay the price. No matter what or how these large multi billion dollar companies fervently preach about corporate social responsibility (CSR), it’s all utter bullshit. If it hurts their pocket and delivers wrath from their shareholders, they'll switch team in an instant. Few care about slave like working conditions, the use of dangerous chemicals, pumping chemically ridden waste into river and sea and so forth. The contracted factories in third world or developing nations are squeezed out of every penny to reduce operating costs in order to maximize profit. Never mind if they refuse because they will take their million dollar contract and find another factory elsewhere. The cost reducing exercise trickles down to the employees who are paid a pittance and worked in unsafe conditions. 





Let’s go back to my rather cynical view of most CSR bullshits. Take a look at the supposedly, waste not, want not approach taken by my favorite handbag maker, Hermes. They recycled their waste by creating a new line called Petit H. Guys, let’s just call a spade, a spade. It’s a money making marketing ploy to get rid of materials that they were throwing away and charging an absolute fortune for things that no one really needs. Key chain for £400, crocodile leather sleeve for disposable coffee cup, anyone? 

I find the warped speed that fashion collections are being churned out exhausting. There's little appreciation for the designs before the next set of clothes are paraded yet again, thus the intense cycle around shows and marketing begins yet again. What are we teaching the younger generation, particularly those in their teens? It's ok to go into debt and consume endlessly? It's all about how you look. Superficiality rules? My question is, why are we consuming so much of it? 


37 comments:

  1. CSR, generally, not just in fashion, is bullshit, frankly. There are books on the subject (The Poverty of Capitalism comes to mind): CSR has turned into its own industry, basically a great example of how capitalism is able to churn out capital out of nothing... note how I don't say, create value! Haha.

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    1. I'm getting progressively cynical by the bullshits that surround CSR. I helped a friend with her thesis on CSR. It was.......interesting.

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    2. tbh I'm more amazed when people believe in CSR :( or I might just be very cynical and believe that most seemingly good things (that are prominent + mainstream) have been corrupted by capitalism. but *hugs*

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    3. I think we're too cynical but only because we've been let down so many times. I remember reading a few stories about companies that have "fantastic" CSR. Somehow I struggle to believe that they're that altruistic. There are definitely ones out there doing a good job.

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  2. Great post!
    xoxo
    Giveaway in my blog: http://pourquoimoi.es/

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  3. Great post Marlene. Great rant! Fashion is such bullshit. Even the word! I found an interesting perspective in the French Street Style Fashion book, about how French fashion used to be luxury but now it's just expensive shit made in China and all the money goes on PR and advertising rather than the products.
    Coffee soon??

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    1. You seem to know all the interesting fashion books. I'll go and have a look on Amazon. Yup, will do coffee soon. Will let you know when I'll be back in London again.

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  4. Yes, a really great post . Petit H makes me grind my teeth , I hate superflous gifty type articles and can't imagine wanting any of those things cluttering up my like.
    In my younger days I bought very few things but the things I bought were wonderful and all I needed to feel good . So glad I'm not young in these times as for me this mass consumerism is a sign of terrible insecurity and discontent , people no longer feel attractive in themselves, witness the boom in aesthetic surgery .
    I can't be too preachy though, I snapped up that Zara coat at £29 and wear it without too much remorse !

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    1. You and me both. That £29 Zara coat is my go to outerwear this winter. I guess that makes me a hypocrite in some ways. I think the fashion industry is indoctrinating the younger generation into mass consumption in hope that they'll switch it up before they even leave high school. What happened to being footloose and carefree without obsessing about their appearance?

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  5. It's all, always, about the profits, sad but true. All we can try to do is use our heads and make responsible choices. That works, most of the time. ;-)

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  6. Ok this is going to be a bit rambly so my apologies in advance :)

    Regarding the working conditions - eons ago (back in the communism) we had a factory here that used to produce suits (that was when people used to buy a couple of suits over a decade and called it a day). So you had ladies/gents sewing a sleeve or a pant leg for years on end and even then they had designated loo breaks and if they didn't meet their norms, it was deducted from their paycheck. Obvs they were not locked in and they didn't work in 10/12 hours shifts, but there were penalties if norms weren't met.

    My dad has worked in the textiles industry for 20 odd years (not fashion mind, home textiles) so I have a general idea how much you have to pay for a meter of cotton, polycotton, jacquard,silk for example. How much you pay for bulk stuff. And how much you have to pay for the seamstresses to produce something. We are paying through our noses for everything.

    I have also sat on contract negotiations a couple of times ages ago and the hoops big department stores want you to jump through are getting ridiculous... x% from every invoice for marketing; y% from every invoice so you are paid after 60 days rather than 90 days; x amount for each store they place your products in, penalties if your shipment is late... and the general stance is - you can like it or lump it, your choice, they can always get someone else's product.

    They don't give a rat's arse (sorry) if your factory is local, if you employ women, that they are entitled to holidays/sick leave, medical insurance, you know all that stuff that they like to bang on about in their annual reports. It is the price that matters. And you do basically credit them for the first 2 months because sh*t, them are the rules.

    So yes, what you said :)

    I don't have a problem with Primark charging Ł3 for a t-shirt. I do however have a problem with Benetton/Massimo Dutti/whoever charging €100 upwards for jacket/shirt/sweater and bang on about their CSR BS. Especially since it turned out their stuff was made at the same place Primark's stuff was made, you know?

    I like j brands. I buy them off ebay. I bought a lovely peacoat that way too. Am not particularly fussy. But I also have H&M parka that I bought for Ł40 last year and I'm wearing it daily still. I clean my closet twice a year and donate clothes to the local goodwill. Is that the solution? Probably not. But it makes me itsy bitsy better.

    Also fact of the matter is - many people can only afford fast fashion. Even if they save up. So what in the world would give me (or a fashion editor or whoever) the right to school anyone on how or where they spend their money?

    The only solution that I can see is to cut off the demand (hell, I'd love to see even a one day global boycott!), but don't think that will happen anytime soon.

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    1. Oh wow. It's great to hear your feedback since it comes from personal experience. I was shocked to see how many factories in HK were shut down and so many job losses when the companies took their production to China. I've read that they've moved on to countries with cheaper labor costs now.

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  7. I like the previous comment.
    But please you have to admit Marlene that you're stance is quite hypocritical to say the least. How often do you not rave about the quality and craftmanship that goes into a high end bag and does your blog in it's nature encourage consumerism? And look at your fellow bloggers, how many rave about the high street and when they find a bargain garment. Did you not buy Isabel Marant for H&M?
    It's good in itself that every once in a while you try to highlight the uglier side of fashion but why not do a little more and try to organize your fellow bloggers and unite on this. All together you might be able to make a start to make a tiny difference.

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    1. I think you misunderstood my message. I'm not saying that consumerism is bad. What I'm talking about wastage and excess. We all like to consume, one way or another. I'm just pointing out that it becomes excessive where people no longer value nor wear what they purchase. And the fact that cheaper garments come with a cost. We're all hypocrites (I admit to that fact in the first paragraph) because no one is virtuous enough to only ever buy "ethical" clothes.

      Thank you for the idea. Can you me how bloggers can take a stance on this?

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  8. I think that Marlene is referring to the wastage in fast fashion.

    I have friends who buy a few items from the high street brands every fortnight, and never gotten around to wearing them. They never feel the pinch and justify to me that since it's cheap, it's always alright to buy more.

    Me, on the other hand shop only few times a year, be it luxury fashion or high street brands as I don't see the point in having a wardrobe full of clothes but "nothing to wear". I have learned that it is when I restrict my shopping habits that I become more creative in matching and mix my clothes.

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    1. Thank you, Cecilia. Yes, I'm talking about wastage and excess here. I think I'll need to double check myself and my motive for buying certain things and not just getting into the hype trap.

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    2. I am learning to maintain a minimalism wardrobe, and limiting myself to purchasing key items every season. (OK, so Singapore has only two seasons - hot and hotter. but I feel cool saying every season. LOL)

      I seldom window shop, except loiter outside Chanel/Hermes/BV/Dior sometimes just to admire the exquisite workmanship of their items.

      I think through every purchase making sure that it fits with at least 5 items in my existing wardrobe, unless it's a dress. I supposed it helps that I don't have many clothing, so I can remember all of them. I have to be careful since I have developed quite a distinct style that I tend to buy similar clothing.

      Of course, I may at times succumb to madness and buy something on impulse. But that hasn't happened often nowadays.

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    3. Wow, you're more meticulous than I am. I think it's absolutely wonderful what you're doing. I don't think it's a bad thing that you've got a distinct style. It just shows you're comfortable with who you are and have developed your own personal style over a period of time. I'm a lazy shopper. The thought of going shopping in a large store gives me a headache. Too many options.

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    4. Thanks Marlene. I only learnt to be more conscious of my shopping habits recently as I want to adopt a "waste-not-want-not" attitude. I am still working towards my goal.
      My style is so distinct that I have friends who will just point out some clothes and exclaimed "this is so Cecilia". hahaha
      I actually don't enjoy window shopping, as I find it so tiring. I prepare a list and zoom in what I want, try, buy and go.
      Just last month, I dreamt that I walked into Chanel and Dior - told the SA to pack everything in my size and paid for it in cash and left.

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    5. LOL! I have the same dream about Chanel. Wouldn't it be neat if I could just say, I'll have that that and that jacket and please pack them all up. I find myself just sticking to the same few brands, say Uniqlo, Isabel Marant, Petit Bateau, Comptoir des Cotonniers. They fit my body shape well, quality's good and I don't have to use too much brainpower to dress myself

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  9. The fact when you talk so much about designer brands and stuff, to me it is all about 'showing off'. I think if you show us your photo about how you wear them without mentioning those brands, this blog can be more educating. But that is you, and it is your blog. Something to think about, perhaps.

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    1. I'm sorry you don't like my blog. I suggest perhaps you continue reading the ones you do like. You do realize that this is not a personal style blog. I often feature travel, food, interior decor too, amongst other topics. Furthermore, I HAVE posted outfit photos. Seeing that you have very strong opinions about my dismal attempt at blogging, why not start your own and educate the rest of us?

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    2. I hope you don't mind if I offer my opinion here (not that anyone asked me or anything :)

      If you take a look at any blog, whether it is about travel, handbags, home decor, beauty, personal stuff or fashun :), it can always (always!) be interpreted as "showing off". Hell, I write about TV shows and was lucky enough to get invited to a few screenings, that also can be interpreted as "showing off", no? It's just the nature of the beast, wouldn't you agree?

      This may come off as white knighting (feel free to judge away :), but I like Marlene's blog for a number of reasons. She is an intelligent woman who can write well. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders. She takes lovely pictures and whenever I get a hankering for UK or London, I know I can hit up her blog :)

      And I do enjoy her fashion posts. Yes, we do share a similar aesthetic, but what Marlene does and many more fashion orientated bloggers don't do, is actually use the clothes in her wardrobe. By that I mean, she "recycles" (for a lack of better word) the same jacket/pair of jeans/sweater and wears them on a daily basis. It's not c/o this, that or the other. Or shopping for the sake of it, showing off items you never see again. To me at least it is easier to relate to someone who buys a coat and then proceeds to wear it for the season, does that make sense? Because isn't that what we normally do? Even if I had an infinite budget why would I want x number of coats per season and when/where in the world would I wear them all? So it's nice to see stuff mixed and matched, because that's what I do as well.

      And for what it is worth - if she didn't mention where she bought whatever, you know there would be people asking oh where did you get that? So on that front you are screwed if you, screwed if you don't. (pardon my French).

      Again, this is just my opinion. :)

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    3. I concur with R as I find Marlene to be prudent with her purchases, recycles her clothes for photos and can be self-deprecating sometimes.

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    4. R & Cecilia, thank you ever so much for the support. You're right. It's a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. Haters will be haters. Speaking of recycling, I AM mildly ashamed of my boyfriend jeans after looking at the photos of my outfit on Pose (I'd removed it on the blog!!). You'd think I don't own any other pants.

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    5. I see your boyfriend jeans and raise you my skinnies! There is a hole on the knee that is getting progressively bigger since I manage to put my foot in every.single.time. But damn - are they comfortable! :)

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    6. We should form our own club - people who wear the same things every single week. You know that blog - Shits that bloggers wear? It should be "The same shits that bloggers wear everyday". Oh and distressed look is totally in. Long may it live :P

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  10. R, I totally agree with you. So by not flashing the brands upfront then it is not showing off, isn't it. So, forgive my puns, the brands wear you rather you wear them. M has explained her case of the nature of her blog, I totally understand her, so don't be so up set what I pointed out. Perhaps, again, can I suggest M to think about the aim of the blog? I am just thinking if this this a personal, non commercial related blog, what would it turn to be? Something to think about? Forgive my puns again.

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    1. Anonymous, I do get what you are saying!

      But... :)

      If we go with the premise that we (you, me, whoever) read whatever blog, it is because whoever is behind it, writes about something that is of interest to us. So if Marlene wrote about the best fish and chip shop/pub/place to have coffee in London let's say... but she didn't write the name of the place or the address, I'd be like - wtf Marlene, what's up with that? I'd like to know where that places is because a) I trust her judgement and b) I have limited time while I am there and don't feel like wandering from place to place.

      As someone who creates content (yes, that's a bit of cringe-inducing word, but whatever) I want it to be funny, informative and yes, useful. I don't have affiliate links on my blog, but again I want people to be able to find stuff I write about, because that's what I would find useful (for example - you can find whatever show at the link here).

      And again, in my book that is no different that fashion-y stuff, you know?

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    2. Anon, frankly speaking, I'm puzzled why you're so concerned about the aim of my blog? Some days I write about my travels, other days, it's food. It's whatever I feel like writing because it's my blog. This post isn't a personal attack against you. I'm happy to discuss about the post but the blog is my concern and if it fails badly in your eyes, then it's MY failure, not yours. You're an articulate person and if we met face to face, I'm sure we'll have a friendly conversation but right now, I'm just baffled by your comments.

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    3. Dear M, sorry if I up set you which I don't plan to. I just leave food for thought, no ill meaning. Je suis désolé

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    4. That's alright. Thank you for what you've just said. No, no hard feelings. ((hugs))

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  11. Many fashion blogs really do feed the wanton consumption beast. Hanging out with my pal's teenage daughters recently really brought it home that many young readers don't realise that most of the products have been gifted or are just "borrowed" - disclosure is hugely lacking. NOBODY wears a different outfit every. single. day. That is not something to aspire to or even achievable. Buy and wear what you love. I'm now trying to live by this after previously being a complete shopaholic (90% of wardrobe never worn). Thinking about our choices is always good to do.

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    1. I loved what you've just said. Extreme consumerism scares me. I believe in moderation. I actually found out that one popular blogger regularly goes to press rooms to "pull" clothes for her blog. I thought only stylists do that for their clients. How naive of me.

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  12. Wow Marlene, I had no idea that was possible that a blogger can go to press rooms to pull clothes for their blog! very naive of me. Great lifestyle blog! I subscribed.

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    1. I didn't know either. I'm assuming this privilege is only available to a selected few excluding myself.

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