Browsing through a magazine today, I came across what is not really news, nor a really a new movement but one that has become more a part of the way we are choosing to eat. The article discussed the concepts of dining close to where the chef has a farm, or “farm-to-table” and savvy shoppers who fill their grocery carts with food that is not only wholesome, organic and good for them but is produced in a way that is good for animals and the environment alike. You too may know the concept of sustainability as one that has become trendy in the food world.
What has this to do with fashion? The concept of fashion and sustainability is also one that is not really news but has begun to become a movement that will hopefully become as important to us as the attention we are paying to feeding our bodies.
It is important to remind ourselves that there are 7 billion people currently on earth, and the vast majority made up of societies who deem wearing clothing a necessity,therefore the fashion industry is as important to humans as the food industry. One of the inherent characteristics of fashion is that it involves change. And, as so many people tell us – “Change is Good!” This adage might help someone who is balking at the idea of accepting a new technology into their business lives, but is a motto that few fashionistas need to be given?
The speed of change is something else that we should examine. If change is good does it necessarily mean that it must occur immediately? Our initial answer may likely be a resounding yes! We seem to have little patience anymore for the light to turn green, for the song to upload, for the app to open. We want everything to happen quickly and no better example of that in the fashion world is what has been deemed “Fast Fashion”.
Fast fashion has certainly contributed to a fashion addiction for many. The need to have the newest and trendiest is not necessarily a new concept but the possibility of that being available to anyone with $14.99 is what has enabled us to become the ultimate consumers.
Gobbling up a new product every two to three weeks was not possible, even five years ago. Slow fashion meant that there were new fashions but it took much longer for those trends to diffuse through society. The production of merchandise was slower and I would suggest it was better for this lack of speed. The quality of the product was definitely superior to some of the merchandise available to us today. This superiority also meant that the longevity of the product was assured.
In the not so far off past, there were items in everyone’s closet that they kept for years because the style was deemed to be classic. The LBD as proposed by Coco Chanel is a perfect example. Our Fashion Resource Centre has many wonderful examples of these Little Black Dresses for exactly that reason – they were classic, could be worn for a number of different occasions and by more than one person in the family!
In examining some of today’s fast fashions, there are few that I could say “need” to be added to our Fashion Resource Centre. In fact, I’m not sure that they would ever make it to the collection as the quality of the product is so poor that it is likely to be discarded by a wearer rather then them thinking it would make a good donation.
Earlier periods in the history of fashion production attempted to create patterns that would be as economical in the use of the fabric as possible. During WWII “Utility Dressing” was a movement of British fashion designers to create fashionable and utilitarian garments for women during a period when rationing was required. Today the wastefulness to be found not only in the cutting of fabric but in the use and pollution of natural resources is appalling.
Customers paid dearly for the garments they purchased in times past and this might have been one of the reasons for the slower diffusion of fashion trends. They paid for the artistry of the designers as well as the producers of the actual garment. Today, men, women and children are paid wages that are as close to slave labour as it is possible to be. And, these business practices are fueled in part by the consumers who demand low prices and fast fashion.
It is not simply the Little Black Dresses that prove interesting in the study of fashion. The attention to detail that designers and manufacturers considered important to their reputation as well as to the comfort of their clients is important to examine. When we look at the care to ensure that each tiny pleat has been added with mathematic precision to add the desired fullness to a skirt or the exacting placement of each bead, rhinestone and thread in the embroidery of a gown we admire not only the symmetry, the decoration and the artistry but the passion that fueled the need to create such a thing of beauty.
Although we have the ability to create fast fashion there is a need, and hopefully a desire among designers and consumers to pause and consider the value of slow fashion. The fashion industry needs to feed the soul with the beauty of a unique garment, lovingly created and done so with the least impact on human beings and the endangered environment.