Fast Fashion vs. Expensive Clothes: Why We Should (Sometimes) Spend More
Have you guys gone outside recently? I did and my clothes fused to my body. My t-shirt melted into my skin and has to be surgically removed now, and that's not even the worst part. The worst part about this heat wave is that I can't wear one of my favourite pieces of clothing, this Rick Owens leather jacket,
Being a prized reminder of my materialism disguised as fashion appreciation, nothing hurts more than when someone asks me, "nice jacket, Zara?" By the time my brain processes what I've just heard, I'm a broken man on the brink of existentialism. Not even the dark lord himself is safe from the effects of fast-fashion brands, the clothing equivalent to fast food; cheap, mass-produced, and unhealthy for us as consumers in more ways than we think.
We find ourselves thrilled at the fact that we can buy a ton of clothes for dirt cheap, but is that necessarily a good thing?
We live in a world dominated not just by men, but also the fast-fashion industry which proves problematic for several reasons. On top of creating a wave of impulse-purchases, most of which ends up unused, thrown out or even worse, re-gifted, this creates problems for the environment, the workers, and the consumers.
In case you're a cynic, search up "haul videos" on YouTube and see all the videos of YouTubers talking about their latest purchases and how much they paid for them. This isn't to talk down on them in any way whatsoever, I respect their hustle fully, but it just goes to show you how accepted it's become to buy so much for so little. In a perfect world, this wouldn't be an issue. But alas, like my soul, this world isn't perfect, but even with our materialistic desires we can start changing the world, and ourselves, for the better.
Oh the irony in the above caption.
Given that here on Fashion Moves Forward we freely discuss brands that make $1095USD nylon sneakers that are pretty much duplicates of $1140USD sneakers, the following proposal may come off as a bit of an asshole thing to say: start spending more money on each individual articles of clothing. Before you start writing death threats and emailing Jackson to fire me for saying such blasphemy, hear me out. How many articles of clothing do you own that you value more than the monetary sacrifice you’ve given up for it? Or does a majority, if not all, of everything you own fall under the “meh, it only cost $5, who cares,” category? You see, one the biggest differences between a $5 shirt and one that costs more than that is more often than not the quality. Contrary to what you might believe, quality should be a major factor in purchasing clothes. It'll last longer, won't make you skin itchy, and won't fall apart if you so much as spill water on it. Originality is also key, as fast fashion retailers are notorious for allegedly (read: knowingly) stealing designs from lesser known designers and artists. That being said, are all expensive brands free from sin? Hell no, hence why doing a bit of background research wouldn't hurt. But you know what does hurt? Seeing people in Fear of God and Rick Owens "inspired" (read: ripped off) outfits acting as if they invented the trend. As Jackson once said, "love yourself please, and don't invite any roasting on yourself."
First things first, understand how much you’ve been paying for clothes thus far and decide, given your current spending habits, the most you’d be willing to buy something out of pure impulse. Now, create a number that exceeds that amount and use it as your desired minimum amount of money you’re going to try and spend on clothes. Let’s use $100 USD as an example. I know what you’re probably thinking right now,
“$100 ON ONE PIECE OF CLOTHING, ARE YOU FUCKING STUPID? YOU ELITIST DICK.”
Besides the fact that you probably now think that I’m some asshole elitist (that’s half true by the way, I’m just not elitist), the point of this target minimum is to make you hesitate before making a purchase and contemplate if whether or not it’s actually worth it. The $100 USD example was just that, an example. Different situations obviously call for a different budget, but aim to make it above your budget enough so that it hurts just a little bit. Doing so will help with decreasing the amount of useless clothes you have as well as help you value every purchase you make more than you normally would.
That alone sounds crazy, doesn't it? Well, it gets better. There have been three separate scientific studies done by Marsha Richins of the University of Missouri regarding happiness and buying. By the end of her studies, Richins concluded that, "The state of anticipating and desiring a product may be inherently more pleasurable than product ownership itself." Basically, we impulse shop to make ourselves feel better. As Quartz describes in greater depth in their analysis of modern consumer culture, we have found ourselves a new form of entertainment in the form of shopping. A good start to move away from becoming too materialistic is by having the impact of such a hobby hurt at least a little bit, as The Atlantic suggests.
Brands like those above? Yeah, try to stay away from them.
Now that we’ve established a budget of sorts, let’s discuss the more broader effects of making better spending choices.
Let’s begin at the start of the manufacturing process, when the clothes are being made. Fast-fashion is given that name for a reason. This part of the fashion world goes through more clothes in a shorter amount of time than most hollywood marriages. Incredible isn’t it? The problem is that this high level of clothing turnaround comes at the price of the exploitation of workers labouring long work days to barely put food on the table and support their families. Don't get me wrong, employing workers from third-world countries in order to bring economic benefits is a wonderful thing, but we should also make sure that they're being treated right. A cheap article of clothing is unlikely to cover the cost of manufacturing, packaging, shipping, AND proper compensation for the workers, especially when it comes to mass-production. The rate of this happening has grown exponentially in the past few years despite horrific tragedies such as the collapse of Rana Plaza garment factory outside Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013 that left more than 1,000 people dead. For a short time period, it seemed like the fashion industry was going to work on using better alternatives than underpaid and overworked workers to produce their garments given the outrage that ensued this tragedy. But alas, human greed surpasses all emotional connections.
While I'm not saying that all expensive clothes are free from guilt, as has been analyzed by The Huffington Post, it's a matter of supporting brands that are more transparent with their business. By buying into fast-fashion labels that build their empires on the backs of human exploitation, we’re feeding into a broken system that is long overdue for a clean-up.
Speaking of cleaning up, have you ever been outside? It’s pretty neat when the heat isn’t trying to melt you. According to this 2007 article by Environmental Health Perspectives, the demand for synthetic and man-made fibers have been on the rise very rapidly, the process for which involves large amounts of crude oil, emissions, and pesticides which is leaving behind a huge environmental footprint. By spending more than usual per article of clothing, you're essentially allowing yourself to purchase clothes you actually value, thus leaving you with something you'll get much more wear out of rather than a disposable shirt you'll only wear once for that one event that you never bothered to wash afterwards. You'll end up buying one, rather than multiple, items and help reduce the environmental impact of your spending habits.
At the end of the day, this idea of setting up a target minimum spending amount is simply a guide on how to be a smarter shopper. Sometimes we simply find something we absolutely adore and decide to buy it, and the fact that it's cheap is a nice bonus. Sometimes the more expensive option doesn't suit your needs; like, why would you buy an expensive coat you'll know for a fact you'll only wear once if there's a cheaper alternative. Sometimes you're browsing on Grailed and manage to find a second-hand item that is well below your target and yet still holds incredible value in your eyes. What I'm trying to say is that the way you shop is a part of your lifestyle, and only you can decide what suits your needs best.
Personally, I choose to spend a bit more on my clothing because 1) it feels more like a reward rather than simply another purchase, and 2) bluntly put, my priorities are kind of fucked up. Hence why I choose to write about clothes rather than actually actively buy them. I also like to be able to eat when I buy something, you know? On the bright side, you're on a website called Fashion Moves Forward where we usually talk about clothes way out of our budgets, so we're all in this together.
'Till next time, y'all!
Cover photo image shot by Manal Rahim. She takes pretty pictures sometimes, follow her on the 'gram @manny.arr. She somehow put up with me when she shot this Rick Owens leather jacket, she deserves a follow for that alone.