It’s hard to think we could ever have anything but unbridled excitement for a $20 Céline-esque find at the mall, but a recently released book is warning that fast fashion’s trend machine may have some serious repercussions.
In Elizabeth L. Cline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, she points a finger at fast fashion retailers like Zara, saying they may be churning out cheap wares at the cost of much more: namely, our planet, our market and our wallets (not to mention our groaning, filled-to-the-brim closets).
“In a very short period of time clothing has gone from something that we need to save up for and something that people valued and took care of, to something that is an impulse and disposal purchase,” she told Fashionista.
We see her point: most of us get a cheap retail fix at least once a week, which is an entirely different approach than generations past, when women used to save up and invest in clothing (what’s more, their clothes were usually custom-made). And we can’t argue with the fact that cheap fashion giants are our first stop when we want to try a brand new trend without the big financial investment.
According to Cline, the issue is that despite the fact that our clothes cost less, we’re consuming more of them. Cline says we’ve developed a toss-away attitude to passé trends, throwing away our month-old rayon or polyester wares only to immediately replace them with the latest week-old offering.
Not only is this bad for our bank accounts and our wardrobe, she says, but fast fashion companies either place pressure on or drive out niche companies. Many independent retailers are forced to drastically reduce their level of craftsmanship, while others simply can’t keep up with the competing rate of production and close up shop. Finally, Cline points out that the more we consume, the more strain we place on our natural fiber providers, meaning that more and more clothes will be created out of synthetic materials.
What do you think: does Cline have a point, or is she ignoring the fact that many of us dabble in both high and fast fashion, and that there’s a place for both?
Katha Pollitt, The Nation contributor: “Overdressed does for T-shirts and leggings what Fast Food Nation did for burgers and fries.” [Brokelyn]
Radley Balko, Huffington Post writer: “What the world needs now is for Michelle Obama to wear more expensive clothing.” [Twitter]
Caitlan Moneta, fashion market editor: “I have always belonged to the quality over quantity camp. More expensive pieces (a.k.a. quality garments) force you to really consider your purchases and whether or not they truly fit your personal style. Part of looking pulled together means sticking to well-fitting, well-manufactured, well-designed pieces that will stand the test of time. I think we need to carefully consider the legacy we’re leaving with rayon-loaded landfills.”
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