Giorgio Armani is quoted with saying that ‘the difference between style and fashion is quality’. In the era of fast, disposable fashion, this quote has never seemed more apt. As consumers and manufacturers wake up to the damaging effects of fast fashion and throwaway designs, the focus on quality, style and sustainable manufacturer of garments is essential. Fashion is designed to be fleeting and throwaway, but consumers, designers and manufacturers must once again embrace quality items that are designed to last. The addiction to fast fashion has to end. The focus should now be on true style, quality garments and quality production.
The problem with being fashionable
Everyone wants to look good and we all love having nice clothes. Fast fashion has allowed us to keep constantly up to date with fashion and trends at an increasingly low price at an increasing speed. The problem is, fast fashion means we’re drowning in cheap, poorly made clothes that don’t last more than a few wears. Fast fashion has become an addiction. In 1930, the average US woman owned nine outfits. In 2017, the average woman purchased approximately sixty new items of clothing per year. A UK study found that approximately 30% clothes items aren’t even worn. According to WRAP, around £140m, or 350,000 tonnes worth of unwanted and overbought clothing goes straight to landfill in the UK. This staggering increase in consumption is fuelled by manufacturers and suppliers who drive the need for this constant buying. Brands such as H&M and Zara have truly embraced fast fashion, developing up to 100 micro seasons of clothes each year instead of the 2-4 seasons that was usual in the past.
Although fast fashion is tempting for consumers, this constant cycle of cheap, mass production has serious consequences for the environment and the textile workers that produce them. Clothes produced in this way are often incredibly poorly made- they shrink or fall apart after a few washes, perpetuating the cycle of over buying and over producing more. Incredibly, some clothes are actually designed to fall apart. To be truly stylish, you need to buy fewer clothes, and buy better.
Encouraging lasting style over a fast fashion fix
Consumers need to be prepared to spend more money on clothes. This may be a difficult concept for consumers used to £10 jeans or £2 t shirts, but spending more money per item of clothing is a significant way to encourage reducing consumption. Buying fewer items that are better quality is the key. But how do we encourage consumers and brands to focus on quality?
Focusing on style, rather than fashion is essential for this process. Fashion by its very nature focuses on fleeting, on trend items that are churned out by the hundreds of thousands. As a result, quality is poor and the items will never last- they’re not supposed to. Style on the other hand celebrates well thought out, well designed and well-made items. Paying more per item of clothing allows the buyer to really think about what they’re buying. Journalist Marc Bain decided to spend a minimum of $150 per item. While price is no guarantee of quality and this amount is unmanageable for many, setting a minimum price per item encourages proper thought before purchasing, reduces the amount of impulse buying and encourages purchases of greater quality- you want them to last.
Quality-focus has been at the forefront for many companies. WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan focuses on encouraging better design and quality in the manufacture of clothes, encouraging a longer life of each item. Forward-thinking brands are encouraging customers to value the clothes they buy by offering clothing guarantees. Levi’s, Nudie Jeans and Patagonia all offer repair and alternations services for their clothes to discourage constant buying, all while highlighting the increased use you can get out of quality items.
Buying better quality items is beneficial to consumers for many ways. Quality clothes are better made, they look better, last longer and are a more cost-effective option in the long run. They’re also more likely to be made from better quality natural materials with better treated textile workers, so consumers can actively, genuinely support sustainable fashion while benefiting from better produced items.
The addiction to fast fashion needs to fall out of style
Although fast fashion is currently irresistibly cheap, impulse buying cheaply made garments will never equate to being stylish. Consumers and brands need to work together to focus on wanting true style, producing and buying quality, lasting garments that will last through the years. Buying quality will help to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of over consumption of fashion and will celebrate real style. Quality garments also benefit the consumer, allowing quality design, manufacture and textiles to be celebrated. It will require a huge shift in mind set, but the addiction to fast fashion, for both consumers and manufactures needs to stop.