Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"The True Cost of Fashion"

“No matter whether we actually like the style or not: we are very powerfully persuaded to conform and go with the trend in order to appear fashionable. The consumer is now tyrannized by trends. The market is saturated and people are beguiled, bedazzled and bewildered by “choice”. The irony of the situation is that in reality we have very little consumer choice at all. But for a tiny design flourish here or color option here, most fashionable shops, cafes and coats, dresses, cards and magazines all look the same: the consumer equivalent of a monoculture.”

This is an excerpt from a brilliant article of Charty Durrant (Tyranny of Trends) that I’ve just read. The article has covered many, I would say, ugly aspects of fashion. I will not attempt to react or present my own views on each, rather I’ll just talk about random insights I’ve got on the topic.

Contrary to the barraging uproar of the fashion industry on unrestrained expression through incessant redefinition of fashion style, also known as trend, the subscription to it has actually barred us of choice and our personal expression. Fashion has ceased to be an embodiment for distinction and a showcase of our creative capacity as individuals. Whenever I go to crowded places, I easily noticed (and couldn’t help but rant to Brando) how everyone mirrors everyone. With a daily dosage of media and advertising, we are set to conform whether we like it or not consciously or unconsciously. I think we have totally missed the point of “expression” that unknowingly we arrived at its anti-thesis in the name of trend. If you’d ask me if it’s something that’s worth my time to get bothered with, I’d say quite yes. Simply because it could be a symptom of an underlying severely disoriented values that are rotting humanity out. Sometimes, I could imagine an image of human beings uniformly plastered with lifeless materials, creating a whole new paradigm of a trivialized and boring “half-life” form, walking about the high streets. It’s actually quite creepy, if you have pictured it out.  

Moreover, we are in the height of humanity’s fascination to possession, which is driving the production insanely at its highest as well. Our worth is defined by our material possessions. Well, sure, there is nothing wrong with spending our hard-earned money and enjoying the fruits of hard work. But what I’m pointing out here is the twisted motivation for spending, like our obsession to attention and how we physically appear before others. We stride with Louboutin and carry a Starbucks coffee going to work to get everyone praise us like gods, thus feel good about ourselves. Right, ‘coz these days Louboutin and Starbucks are enough bases for judgment and are enough reasons to make us feel good about ourselves. Well, we can decide to shop a new Hermes bag later. That would be happiness. Seriously, isn’t that frustrating to imagine that happiness has turned into a couture label inside our shopping bag? The opportunists have capitalized on this.

Voracious consumerism sustained the industry of sweatshops. In fact, they are sprouting, more than ever, in developing countries and are very much thriving. People can easily go blind on this because it satisfies our obsession for buying – for those who can afford, by the way. So, instead of facing and addressing the tenacious issue with fair labor policies, we turn our back and say “it creates employment, it feeds people”. Actually, it meagerly feeds the poor but it lavishly feeds the rich. It is a medium prompting to widen the gap between the rich and the poor.

For the record, my views on the matter have nothing to do with gender. I’m not implying that women are more vulnerable to obsession on trends and shopping and thus the issue only concerns them. Not at all. I’m generally talking about one’s fixation to trends and lust for material things regardless of one’s sexual orientation.

Well, honestly, I can’t say that I don’t have stuff that “I-don’t-need”. Please don’t get me wrong. I like buying things as well. I even like some fashion shows. I love boots and nice flats. I adore “tomboy style” fashion. I’m far from a hermit. I’m a very social being. I go out and meet people. I “dress-up” and I read magazines. But what I’m only trying to say is that let’s be who we are. Trends will always be there, that's probably just how business works, however, we may opt not to patronize them. At all. And doing so shouldn’t make us feel like less of a person, unless we allow to be tyrannized and defined by this idea. Fashion and material things are cheap and weak foundation for happiness. Let’s anchor our joy to something more essential and long-lasting. Aren’t the time we spend with our family and friends, our ideas and learning, our experiences, our passion for our jobs, volunteer, and hobbies etc. more precious than a new pair of branded shoes or a handbag? So, that’s where we should invest.

*Illustration is not mine

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