It’s the circle of life: after two months of being swaddled in shapeless linen sundresses we are all ready to dress in proper clothes again. Remember the things with sleeves, waistbands and zippers? As mornings inevitably start getting crispier and the September issues hit the shelves, Scottish plaid starts to look inexplicably alluring again.*
What also starts to look alluring is everything. It’s the start of a new season, so new everything seems justified (Burgundy! How I missed thee!). A new start requires new shoes! A new look for autumn necessitates fresh cashmere! The new me needs a wardrobe overhaul. This is how I feel every August, and it got me thinking.
Has fashion been replaced by activism?
This is the second time I write about the British Vogue September issue without actually having laid my hands on it yet, so it is very telling how hot this magazine has become (it’s already generated record number of revenue – 2 days after publication). Importantly, people are not talking about the fashion in the fashion bible, but rather about activism, which is the main feature in the September issue.
This is extremely interesting. High fashion has had its superficial brushes with activism in the past, such as Chanel’s mock-feminist protests on runway and Dior’s feminist slogan t-shirts, not forgetting Vivianne Westwood, whose designs have taken a stance on numerous societal issues over the years.
The tables have turned, because the cute slogan t-shirts are no longer the only ones doing the talking. Women are, and they are given the space to do so. This is a significant shift. Has activism become more fashionable than fashion? And more importantly: will the current wave of activism fade as soon as S/S20 hits the shops and people are running after something new and shiny again?
Livia Firth’s 30 wears -campaign
The High Priestess of sustainable fashion, Livia Firth, recently launched a global “30wears” -campaign, which means that before you buy anything, you will have to mentally commit yourself to wearing the garment for at least 30 times. This means once a week for less than a year.
This truly is fucking ridiculous. Not her campaign, but the idea that anyone would buy anything that is going to get less than 30 wears (I’m excluding the obvious, such as a wedding dress). Quick checklist:
1. Things cost money.
Everybody stop pretending otherwise.
You think wearing your €5 T-shirt that has been manufactured in indescribably horrible, substandard conditions makes you less elitist than someone who’s paid €50 for a T-shirt whose manufacturing chain withstands any scrutiny?
You think dumping your €5 T-shirt after two wears in a recycling bin, bit like your weekly trash (“Out of sight“) and replacing it with another one makes you less elitist?
Think again. Exploiting the most vulnerable in the consumption chain seems pretty elitist, if you ask me.
2. Fast fashion is the problem.
I wish I could justify its existence by arguing that fast fashion makes fashion accessible and more democratic. It doesn’t. It’s responsible for epic mountains of unrecycleable rags that are swamping the Earth. It is the jewel in the crown of disposal culture. It’s so far removed from actual fashion that it should not be called fashion at all. Fashion was never about churning out new stuff on a weekly basis (mainly knocking off somebody else’s work), only to be thrown out as new items hit the shop-floors.
As a result people actually need to stop and pause to think that a piece of clothing should last beyond 30 wears. This is how insanely removed from reality we have become.
3. It’s not the industry. It’s you.
– “Oh, but the clothes today are not made to last!” you cry in despair. (Exhibit: Adding lycra/elastane in cotton to make stretchy jeans. This adds to the comfort, but drastically cuts down on durability. Also please take note: jeans and other cotton clothing that have added lycra/elastane do not qualify for recycling of cotton. In other words: hazardous waste.)
Stop blaming everybody else, you’re an adult. You take responsibility for your actions. Just buy less. Buy better. Or don’t buy at all. I am not saying you must rush to the next mildew-smelling flea market to buy a poncho from the 70s in order to be a conscious consumer. Just remember that the industry is not responsible for what you buy. You are.
Don’t blame fashion, either. Fashion is meant to make people dream. It’s meant to inspire and feed your imagination “How could I make that work on me?” To quote my earlier post on this topic: “I want to see weird and impractical things. I want to look at expensive garments featuring beading, smocking and lacing so exquisite it makes my eyes water. I want to live in a world where people dedicate their lives for redefining “breathtaking”, year after year. It is comforting to know that there are exceptionally gifted artists, who focus fully on creating universes of astonishing (if unattainable) beauty out of their imaginations and visions, all the while a big part of human race spend their energies exactly on the opposite: spewing (metaphorical) shit all over the place.”
Free tip: Enjoying fashion does not need to include buying anything (I am not counting the piles and piles of fashion magazines, which I consider to be necessary for my overall well-being).
Finally, don’t confuse fashion with style. While fashion can be massively helpful in achieving a fabulous personal style, having a truly great style never requires constantly “updating” one’s wardrobe.
* My perennial fashion-snark is to smile at cookie-cutter September fashion-shoots: Take a pale-skinned model (think of English rose) to any of the Scottish isles. Dress her in layers of fresh-looking plaid and make her stand in front of a loch and/or on a cliff. Every year. And also every year I fall for this. Without fail. Tartan! Who knew, so exotic, yet so wearable!