A couple of days ago I watched The True Cost, a documentary about the impact of fashion on our consuming industry and on the workers in textile factories in third world countries, who on a daily basis are providing in our consuming habits. Consuming clothes has become a habit indeed, an act we’re repeating faster and faster because we want more and more, yet we are never satisfied.
Why do we buy clothes? To feel better, basically. To impress ourselves, and others. To feel unique and different and to represent ourselves in a way we feel the most comfortable with. Nothing wrong with that, it’s totally human. With the right clothes on we feel good and confident and it’s amazing that clothes can give us these wonderful emotions.
But… there’s a huge ‘but’ in the way we’re consuming clothes. The word itself, ‘consuming’: we consume clothes in almost the same way we’re consuming food, it’s something that we use up and after a while we just throw it away because we feel like the clothes aren’t useful anymore. They don’t have any purpose anymore, because our style, and in a certain way our personality – through clothes we’re showing the world a certain side of ourselves – have changed.
The thing with fast fashion chains like H&M and Zara is that we don’t feel guilty about buying clothes we eventually won’t wear after some time, because the prices are so cheap. Oh, this T-shirt with that print on looks so cute, or, I like the colour of that summer dress, and this ripped jeans I just really have to have, oh, and I can combine the jeans with that white T-shirt which costs only 9,99 euros. It all happens so fast when you’re in a store and looking for clothes to try on in the fitting room: the clothes fit, the prices are cheap, so why wouldn’t you go straight to the cash register and buy the clothes you like?
The question “do we need those clothes” isn’t relevant anymore in the materialistic world we’re living in, because let’s be honest: mostly we just don’t need anything, really. We might need a new winter coat after some years if we don’t have any other coat left in our wardrobe, but mostly we’ll have different alternatives to choose from, like the coat we bought last season in Zara and the other one in Mango. But these two coats aren’t that nice anymore, so maybe we will just check for a new one this month.
Why would we buy an almost same looking leather jacket in a more premium oriented retail store, where the jacket will probably cost the double – or even more – of the price, if you can get it in Zara for less than 100 euros? I totally get it, I have a leather jacket from Zara too, but I don’t wear it anymore since I have a much more nicer one from Sandro, with a much more higher price tag too of course. For me, the higher price gives an extra value to the clothing item, like it’s says to me: be careful with it, it has cost a lot of money to buy, and even to produce (because the leather from the Sandro jacket has a higher quality than the one from Zara, even when the Zara one doesn’t look cheap) the product that you’ve bought. And I’m pretty sure this jacket will last for a long time, I will cherish it, it’s a basic item that will never go out of style.
Does it mean I never buy in Zara? Of course I do, but honestly, I don’t do it very often. I’d rather wait to buy a more expensive item than buy five or ten items for the same price in a fast fashion chain. I’m not preaching at anyone here, but in my opinion it seems like sometimes we don’t even think when we buy. Instead of the question “do we really need this”, we have to ask ourselves “do we really want this”. Because in the end, it’s all about wanting clothes, not needing them, the desire to buy a clothing item. Do we really really want this particular item? Think about it for some days, and you’ll come to realisation that maybe you don’t even liked the item that much in the first place. Ok, the T-shirt looked cute on the pants you were wearing in the fitting room, but that’s it. You don’t particularly love the materials of that sweater, or how the buttons are placed on that jacket, or how the different colours seem to match in such a harmonious way.
The problem with fast fashion chains is that they don’t let the consumers think. Every week there are new clothes coming in the stores and the ones you’ve wanted – and waited to buy because you wanted to think about it first – are already sold out when you come back to have a second look. Also, with chains like Zara or H&M, you’ll never appreciate the clothing in all its aspects (the quality, the fabrics) simply because there isn’t a craftsmanship you can admire (for the low cost, you can’t expect high quality and a long production process). For me, quality is much more important than quantity. Just have a look at the documentary The True Cost, you won’t regret it.
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