REAL life is not a series of photo shoots and quick changes. I try to keep this in mind whenever I catch myself splurging on fast-fashion finds when I’m abroad.
The temptation to overspend on articles of clothing and accessories just to get those “looks” for less is always a clear and present danger to fashion watchers like me. What makes these items so desirable?
Not only do these global fast-fashion chains sell stuff at unbelievably low prices, most of these items have an uncanny resemblance to not a few key pieces from those recent runway shows that you’ve been dying to get your hands on.
Fantasy to reality
If you don’t have the money to buy the real McCoy, don’t despair, or so they seem to assure you. The likes of Zara, H&M, Top Shop, Debenhams,
Bershka, Stradivarius and Forever 21 can provide you with almost anything and everything to turn your runway fantasies into reality.
Those who have mastered the art of going high-low, can now manage to look fab yet appear nonchalant without being buried in debt.
Even if you have enough money to last you several lifetimes, going high-low is supposedly a cool way for certain highflyers to look chic and with-it without appearing callous to the plight of the remaining 99 percent.
Going high-low, of course, is the ability to effortlessly mix cheap fast-fashion finds with a few key vintage as well as current designer pieces.
For the uninitiated, purveyors of fast-fashion are a breed apart from the usual RTW retailers most of us grew up with.
Whereas Gap, Banana Republic, Esprit, Marks & Spencer, Club Monaco, Guess and even Giordano, an erstwhile favorite brand of mine whenever I travelled to Hong Kong decades ago, would normally launch two to four collections per year, fast-fashion retailers produce new collections every week.
Some have even upped the ante by producing twice as much. In other words, they produce two collections even before the current week is over. They also have to get rid of these twice-a-week collections at all cost.
How these global brands do it at the expense of quality, poorly paid Third World labor and the environment is the subject of a recent thought-provoking Huffington Post article titled “5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know” by Shannon Whitehead.
How do these fast-fashion retailers do it? Do consumers really save money on these supposed steals, or do they end up forking more on clothes that they don’t really need?
One of the points Whitehead advanced was how quality—always the first casualty—suffers in these fast-fashion companies’ desire to quickly sell cheap clothes in big volumes.
When you’re able to pass on and earn handsome profits by churning out weekly collections despite minimal profit margins, then something’s got to give. In this case, it’s quality.
Just one washing
The trick, writes Whitehall, is to entice fashionistas to keep on buying unbelievably affordable but poorly made clothes fashioned from inferior materials that soon fall apart after one or two washings. I’ve experienced this myself quite a number of times.
We’re not talking of hand washing here by the neighborhood laundrywoman. The benefit of washing delicate clothes by hand hardly exists in time-starved developed countries. Normal washing means sticking your clothes in the washing machine.
When you go down to it, such a business model does make sense. Why would you make industrial-strength outfits that supposedly last the consumer a lifetime if you want to sell more at short intervals? Besides, would the fickle fashionista even want such sturdy clothes when his/her mind is swimming with all sorts of ideas and pegs to look fab and trendy?
I suggest you read the entirety of Whitehead’s story and judge for yourself if the fast-fashion industry has indeed employed underhanded means to make a fast buck.
I don’t know about you, but now that almost every big fast-fashion brand is here in the Philippines, these players have suddenly lost their allure as far as I’m concerned. Since everyone now has access to these supposed must-have brands, they’re no longer as covetable as they once were.
I’m not saying that everything these brands produce are no good (not a few pieces I bought over the years were indeed worthy finds that have become dependable staples in my wardrobe), but given the number of clothes they manufacture within such a short period of time, a big percentage of these items is bound to consist of styles and looks you already have or can do without.
If Whitehead is saying the truth, a good part of these clothes, once used, end up not in the Salvation Army’s coffers, but in landfills. Their quality is that poor, even the homeless in America aren’t interested.
And if fashion-obsessed Filipinos don’t watch out, once all the excitement dies down, they’d soon be stuck with cheap, hapless-looking threads that are so last week.