Monday, August 15, 2011

Reflection on the Tyranny of Trends and Southpark

This article has been lighting up the blogosphere recently and rightly so because it is a thought provoking read about the fashion industry and us as consumers.   It details the economic, environmental, and human costs of the industry that keeps churning out fast fashion to appease the masses who then discard it quickly to keep buying to fulfill a need to conform to, you guessed it, the fashion industry standards.  The knee jerk reaction to reading this article is to swear off buying fast fashion and turning to vintage or independent, local and fair trade designers.  Which don't get me wrong, is really great and should be encouraged; however I'm a little wary of ultimatums and its ability to sustain an action or behavior.  The faster the pendulum swings in one direction results in getting to the other extreme direction that much quicker.

Coincidentally, I just watched a great Southpark episode the other day about "Wall-mart" and its effect on consumers (shopping at all hours of the night, buying in bulk and subsequently hoarding because it's cheaper, ie a 3 pack DVD of Timecop when just one copy would surely suffice) and how it shut down local businesses who could not compete with their prices.  The Southpark boys go on a quest to destroy the "heart" of Wall-mart, which actually turns out to be a mirror reflecting themselves, the consumers.  And the final scenes show the town burning down Wall-mart and going to shop at the local business instead which then grows and grows into its own mega store from the increased patronage and subsequently becomes the target of the mob again and gets burned down.  Consuming is certainly a vicious cycle.  Who knew a cartoon could be so profound?

The best thing about the article is that it creates room for conversation and more thoughtfulness about our consumer habits and how it is linked to our definition of self.  I don't think the answer lies in doing away with our closets and denying our fashion wants but rather to be more thoughtful about our choices and how they impact others and how we view ourselves.  I especially love this last paragraph and will certainly be mulling over it for a while. 

Globalisation has misunderstood and misused this concept for its own ends. We have misinterpreted our connectivity and as a result are more disconnected than ever. Now we have to learn to express ourselves and reconnect with integrity. In the end the true antidote is to adopt an attitude of voluntary simplicity. A manner of living and being that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich. A way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct conscious contact with every part of our lives.

What does a sustainable wardrobe mean to you?


  1. YES! i love your analysis of this. i've been writing and thinking about this for years, and have given myself numerous shopping 'ultimatums' but they never stick. and anyway, it's not enough to just buy second-hand items or even "eco-friendly" fabrics (which you have to be very careful of, including WHERE you buy so-called eco-friendly fabrics) - it's also important to buy things that will LAST. and that you can sell or give away when you're through with them, and they'll still have years of use left. AND it's not even necessarily WHERE something is made, although made in the US is desirable if you live in the US, it's even more important to look at the WHOLE picture, including where & who made the product, how it gets to you, the ethics & mission of the company/designer, etc.

    i could go on, but i won't ;) i will just conclude with what you said above, that it's most important to just be THOUGHTFUL about buying. if you're conscious of what you're buying and where it came from and you make an educated decision, that's the biggest step in the right direction...

  2. wow Grechen--you and this article have gotten the little wheels in my head spinning into overdrive! There are so many aspects to consider that it can get overwhelming. But at least we're thinking about it right? :)

  3. I don't know the answers to any of the questions posed by this article. I do know that a while back I became completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of my wardrobe. I did some serious purging, lots of selling, donating and even some tossing in the trash. I'm trying to be very careful about adding to the wardrobe going forward, although I admit my criteria are not altruistic. I'm not thinking about where things are made or by whom. My only criteria now is that I must LOVE the garment or accessory. It has cut down considerably on my purchasing. When even utilitarian garments like white tees must meet that criteria, it narrows the options! As a direct result, I wear things over and over and I'm not buying disposable clothes anymore.

  4. DF: I think you're doing exactly what you should be doing--being thoughtful about your wardrobe and figuring out what fits and doesn't fit in your own sustainable wardrobe. You're not succumbing to every frenzy or trend and instead keep an eye out for what's classic and makes you feel good and happy wearing!