20 November 2012

The Wanderer

Autumn/Winter 2012

"Name or body: which is closer?
Body or possessions: which means more?
Gain or loss: which one hurts?

Extreme love exacts a great price.
Many possessions entail heavy loss.

Know what is enough--
Abuse nothing.
Know when to stop--
Harm nothing.

This is how to last a long time."

Tao Te Ching
Chapter 44
(translated by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo)

In 2011 each American (including every man, woman and child in that country) spent, on average, $910 on more than 62 garments. This is according to a recent report by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (read here). Let that sink in for a while...over a garment a week with a price of just under $15 per garment. On average. Now consider that the very same report states that these figures show that sales have increased, but that consumption was down, meaning that consumers are apparently spending more but buying less. Buying less is apparently buying more than a garment a week, and spending more is apparently spending under $15 on each garment. I do wonder what the figures were like before. Even taking into account the fact that this is an average, the numbers are for me absolutely staggering.

Too many garments, too cheaply made, too cheaply sold. It raises a plethora of concerns - economical, ecological, ethical, the list goes on. Our cycles of consumption have become akin to a line of pigs gorging themselves at the trough. Fast food, fast fashion, fast technology, fast hellos, faster goodbyes. What was meant to provide convenience, an option when in a pinch, has become the norm. Things pass by in a blur. It is however admittedly difficult to blame the majority of consumers for this behaviour. After all, we have been sold the idea since we were young that this is good for us, good for society, good for everyone. However I would like to think that individuals can make a stand, and in doing so, change things for the better. As Tolstoy wrote, people think of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves. 

Emotion meets consumerism. It is for me a scary combination. Emotion meeting material object is one of the wonders of life, whether it be a young chimpanzee using a stick as a doll to play with and look after, or a scarf that reminds you of a recently deceased relative. But what happens when that emotion is played upon for the purposes of selling an object, of making the act of consumption more important and sought after than the end object itself? We enter a situation where we buy only in order to be disappointed, to be unfulfilled, to be already looking for the next potential purchase before we have paid for the present one. In reality it applies to most of the things we are sold, just as much as it applies to clothing. A world created upon the basis of planned obsolescence. We enter a situation where we feel the need to replace something without really understanding why. I don't need it, I just want it. But the current model needs to change. Where better to start than with our own actions?



  1. Fantastic. After reading the Lucy Siegle book on fast fashion I've decided to take a 6 month break from buying any clothes, after which I'll only purchase items after calm, careful consideration. And the company selling HAS to have some form of ethical position on sustainability - not necessarily a gold standard like Bruno Pieters but at least be working towards making the production and retail of clothing better for the environment and the people who make the clothes.

  2. How fast fashion will go?Will it be more faster and more cheaper?Situation of workers who make fast fashion in third country will be better?

    I feel it is boring that fast fashion are so popular.
    There are people who are very poor and can't afford to buy clothing.But I guess they are not majority consumer of fast fashion.I guess majority consumer are regular young people.They care about fashion but don't care about quality and originality .They just want to get variation of trendy clothing.

    I like people's fashion that insist something.

    Yohji's Pour Homme AW2012 is so masculine. Love it.

  3. Two points:
    a) Can men please dress like this, always?

    b) I've been ruminating over this issue as well, although being pregnant also adds a whole other dimension to my consumerism. I absolutely HATE the though of buying a whole new wardrobe JUST to fit my growing bump for another 4-5 months. Plus, my husband & I have decided that this will probably be our last child so if I did buy new clothes I would never wear them again. I would be buying them to wear until April (the baby's due date) and then never again. Seems wasteful to me... so I've been making due with what I had from my last pregnancy plus anything I still fit. The bump is still pretty small at this stage, but by April I might just have to resort to my husband's t-shirts... haha.

  4. YESSS!!!! We can change the world by opening peoples eyes. Actions speak loudest, people are influenced by the influential. When asked what someone wants in life most if not all will say happiness. Deep down inside that is what we all want. But what is happiness? It's different for everyone. Retailers pray on consumers by telling them to buy an item to make them: cooler, thinner, sexier and more attractive to the opposite/same sex, younger, older, taller, smaller. It's not about a product fixing a problem, it's now about masking a personal issue. The faster that the world consumers, the more thoughtless this consumption, the blinder people are to the issues deep within that they are unwilling to fix… I like to use the idea that if one day you woke up and lost the use of your corporeal senses. Trapped in your own mind, what would life be like? To most pretty terrible. Instead of growing our internal paradise we are told to invest in really beautiful gates and fences that also distract us from the weeds growing within. Making the decision to live a conscious life, being present, in a world like ours, can be very painful. Here in America and Americana influenced countries, pain and sadness, negative emotions are not allowed. It is better to be numb. Yet how can we possibly reach the absolute heights of happiness if you don't know the deepest trenches of despair. Things will improve, I can feel it Syed. I really can. The thinkers are waking up, we are rising and we will open everyones eyes. Thank you for another beautiful post!

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