Fashion companies have cancelled or refused to pay billions of orders during the Covid-19 pandemic. These headlines came to light shortly after Covid-19 kicked in and most retail stores closed their doors. Sad news that shows more than ever how the fashion industry, built on the idea of regular rebirth and innovation, needs to change. What we now call ‘slow fashion’ is simply the way it used to be: people made their own garments, having an appreciation of its value and the value of other people’s time.
But, how can we move from a fashion system defined by its material consumption speed to a system that restores the connection between people and their clothing? It’s time to deep dive into the world of modern consumers and brings back emotional attachment to our wardrobes. Because sustainability shouldn’t just be about making cleaner production, it must be about reducing consumption as well.
Fashion trends everyone ditched
Thanks to the internet, people no longer have to travel to see trends from all over the world. Because of that, and the rise of online shopping, we learn about popular trends more quickly than we ever would have in the past. And more important: we can participate in them with one click on the internet. Resulting in many look-a-likes as everyone will be following the same trends, spotted on Instagram or elsewhere online.
Modern fashion consumption is as much about buying goods as about disposing of them. However, would you ever throw away your jeans if you made them yourself? Or would you discard your favourite dress imbued with memories? These emotional values and connections lack in most of the modern wardrobes due to the speed and glorification of the new in today’s fashion practices. In the end, wardrobes are stuffed to the brim and only a few pieces in our closets really speak to us.
Does this mean that fashion is ephemeral and our clothes are just another type of ephemera? No, I believe that we need to develop a renewed narrative around clothing in order to restore our personal and emotional attachment to our wardrobe.
Cultural and individual narratives
The few garments that really speak to us convey the almost spiritual fashion moments, caused by memory, enchantment, effort, quality, craftsmanship or I-did-it-myself kind of pleasure. Emotional engagement with our wardrobe can also be engaged on a social and cultural level, for example by joining subcultures or sport cultures. People from various subcultures, across the world, feel involved and connected by wearing similar styles and clothes.
Luxury redefined: a longer-lasting wardrobe
To make room for cultural and individual narratives, the driving forces behind the current fashion system – speed and change – need to be challenged. Values such as local design, quality, and exclusivity all contribute to developing your own or shared fashion philosophy outside the industry’s trends and seasonal changes. Those values and perspectives can be encouraged by brands and people (aka influencers) who are able to affect people’s behaviour, and vice-versa, new forms of buying behaviour encourage the development of new systems and values around fashion.
I believe that we need to focus on stories and narratives around clothing – fuelled by new systems and ideas – in order to restore the personal and emotional attachment with our wardrobes. If this will be achieved, a longer-lasting wardrobe will eventually replace the wardrobe based on emotionless ephemera. We may be entering a new era where luxury is redefined. In fact, extending the average life of clothes by just three months of active use per item would lead to a 5 to 10 percent reduction in each of the carbon, water, and waste footprints.
Want to know more about how we, at Fronteer, contribute towards a brighter blue and the transformation of the denim industry? Read here