Whenever we decide to take the weekend to go through a closet bursting with all the things we’ve stored for the last few years, or make a pass through cleaning the kitchen shelves or maybe even the garage, we usually become overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we come across. From musty clothes to old CD’s, strange jars of unidentifiable sauces and outdated electronics, there sometimes seems to be no end to the fact that we continually accumulate a lot of things. To add to that, when we’ve cleaned everything out, we soon realize that we need this or that, so we start to fill up those shelves and closets with stuff, all over again.
This brings up the question of how is this possible, and why does it seem to be a recurring pattern? Campaigned through Annie Leonard and Freerange Studio’s short film The Story of Stuff, is an explanation that those most in touch with the manipulative activity of governments and large companies have been advocating for the last 30 years. As most of you readin g this have been born into Western, service industry societies, it might be rather frightening realization that we have been molded into consumers since childhood. To add, the stuff that we constantly accumulate has been designed for us to want, or feel the need, to continue to consume it. What we buy from the stores either breaks easily, becomes outdated or out of fashion, or just simply turns out to be useless and something we didn’t really need or want despitewhat the advertisement on television or Facebook made us feel when we saw it.
Fashion, as Leonard succinctly points out, is almost entirely based and built on the notion of consumerism. Many people keep on buying clothes regardless of whether they really need them or what echelon of the ‘fashion ladder’ they are on, so that they can keep up with this or that trend. The pace of fashion has been increasing since the 1920’s, allowing opportunist companies to jump onto the bandwagon of profit and utilize this change in trends to enormously benefit them. Every time a style of jeans becomes the type to wear, or a type of shoe is all the rage, it catches on and trickles down even into the most remote areas of our society. This allows companies with the right marketing tactics and abilities to assimilate a trend for their particular audience to reap huge rewards. Take H&M, the Gap or Ross as the perfect examples. Now, the entire realm of fashion design and being a fashion designer has become an industry of its own, with nearly every celebrity having their own line of clothing (e.g. Paris Hilton, Puff Daddy, Miley Cyrus, Lauren Conrad…) and reality shows churning out designers that have prematurely been marketed to the masses (Project Runway, The Fashion Show, The City.)
So what about those people that believe that fashion is an art form and should be taken as seriously as any other method of self-expression and creativity? There is no doubt that self-adornment has been an activity that all civilizations throughout time have engaged in, and clothing has always been an indicator of status. Even now, when someone completely removed from the world of fashion and trends come across someone in a high fashion ensemble (worn the right way, of course) they know there is money behind those clothes. And when someone is truly wearing their creative soul on their body, there is an unmistakable pride present in their appearance. Those that share creative expression through clothes have an unspoken respect for another’s way of wearing, an understanding we have termed as style.
What has happened to style? It seems that with the current state of things, style has turned int something that can be bought, so everyone can have some of it! Of course fashion magazines are full street style snaps, and the people in them are surely wearing something that defines their style. But it seems those magazines promote these styles because they are cool and surely everyone wants to buy something from a look worthy of a page in that publication. Instead, could that message be about how extraordinary this person is because of how something they are wearing is made, how it can be recycled or what it was exchanged for at a clothes swap? It seems that we have much to reconsider as consumers, and as ones interested in fashion, a lot of chances to rebuild an industry that is currently extremely exploitative.
If fashion is meant to reflect the expression of our current sources of creative inspiration, should we not be wearing a solution to the obvious issue of over-consumption and homogenized ‘looks’? If so many of us are unhappy with the way the majority of the population is consuming, due to the products that are available, why don’t we implement systems that create products we really want, can be re-used and don’t contribute to the destruction of the world around us? It may not be easy, but it’s simple: don’t feed the system that doesn’t work, and put your money and energy into creating one that does. Building upon our ability to understand and utilize our immense information networks so that we can join our creative and productive skills is the key. When more of us realize this and act on it, it will become ever more evident that it is possible and can definitely be done with style.
Image courtesy of The Story of Stuff Project.