FIRST WORLD NATION

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photo sourced by ecouterre

Raising controversy, Forever  21 opened an even cheaper sister brand F21 RED precisely located in LA’s South Gate working-class community of Azalea Shopping Center, where tops range between $1.80-3.80 and pants at $7.80. Evidently they are able to “deliver greater quantities of the styles [their] customers seek, while maintaining the value with entry-level category price points Forever 21 is known for offering” as Don Chang, Forever 21′s founder and CEO stated and shared on Refinery 29.

Needless to say, questions are being raised about the ethics, necessity & sustainability of such cheap fashions. Even in tough economic times, I think we can all agree that as a first world nation there is no need for clothing to be this cheap. Leeann Duggan from Refinery 29 makes a good point stating, “What does it say about the value we truly place on fashion — and the people who make our garments”. It is insult to injury to the 1133 factory workers who needlessly died, over 2500 injured and the hundreds of children consequently left orphaned from the building collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh just over one year ago. While many other design houses and commercial brands are focusing transparency throughout the supply chain and while global initiatives beginning to be set in place to change the garment factory working conditions, one can only raise an eye brow to this low brow scheme.

canda.com photo rana plaza

Photo sourced from canada.com “Forever 21′s $1.80 shirts: How cheap is too cheap?”

… Now, the views expressed are of my personal perspective. Brace yourself, I am going to be quite candid with you here’

I say scheme for a reason:

  1. Despite this being Forever 21′s first test concept store, F21 RED (could be considered “cleverly”) positioned amongst America’s working-lower-class. Perpetuating an ill twisted system of keeping the lower class hungry for “better deals” and encouraging them to buy more with the mindset that they are getting a bargain and saving money.
  2. Dare I say this is a capitalist mindset?! … keeping the rich, rich and the poor, poor etc. (for lack of better word), distracting them with “lower prices!”
  3. It is essentially a garbatory of clothing that is not made to last beyond a few wears let alone a season, if lucky! Thus contributing to a global problem of disposable clothing clogging landfills and exponentially spewing toxicity into the environment for every component of its development, manufacturing and its final resting place… in the trash.
  4. F21 RED prices purposely make them accessible to an even younger generation of customers… “children & tweens”… who could now independently spend their allowance, babysitting or birthday money on these cheap fashions. It just feels icky! A way to exploit children at a young age, teaching them needless consumption and greed for more. Dont get me wrong, I loved fashion and to shop from a young age but I still had to save up my allowance for a shirt, it was a special treat, not the norm and certainly not financially accessible at these prices.
Livia-Firth

Photo sourced by ‘reve en vert’

Admittedly I was shocked (but not shocked) by the gusto in Forever 21 motives. Proudly, I am not a customer of their store and find the shopping environment and experience unpleasant, whilst obviously I don’t resonate with the company morals or business model. More so, I find it such an odd contradiction to the global sustainability movement, like a last attempt to make fast disposable fashion relevant whilst having complete ignorance, disregard and lastly respect to all those involved in the supply chain and purchasing consumer. There I said it!

With this in mind, lets talk about getting  “more fashion mileage per piece”, an article recently written by Livia Firth (Collin Firth’s wife) for the BoF. Livia is known for her sustainable fashion initiatives, particularly raising awareness through and with her celebrity, while encouraging other celebrities to follow suite, thus sharing the message to the vast public consumer.

Regardless if we are talking about a different consumers, the same mentality applies. At all price points and income levels, education and importance on the value of our purchased items needs to improve. For many, we no longer have any value, regard or respect for the clothing we buy. We buy shirt for friday night on friday afternoon and we accept that it’ll only last a few wears and be tossed away afterwards and yet we are ‘okay’ with this system. Literally throwing our money away.

Livia poignantly says,

For the last 15 years, we have been… buying clothing in a rush and discarding it just as quickly. Meanwhile, the cost of fashion has plummeted. You can buy full outfits for the same price as a sandwich and a cup of coffee. But the true cost is picked up by those unseen in the supply chain, working anonymously in difficult conditions, sometimes enslaved, and rarely mentioned — certainly not on the swing tag.

It is time to change the terms. Fashion brands must begin to acknowledge their debt to both the natural world and to the people who make their business possible. They need to invest in sustainable approaches both for their future and our future. Why in haute couture do we talk about the hours of work that go into hand embellishing a garment, but in fast fashion we ignore it?

And this is why I am disappointed with companies such as Forever 21 (F21 RED) for not taking initiative or responsibility for their role in society and the direct impact they have on both the thousands of anonymous garment workers and the consumers they target.

We all have a responsibility here and the ability to participate and affect positive or consequently negative change.

In truth, I’ve found myself most recently going through my own clothing, bored of what I have to choose from, desiring new “cool” pieces and seeing what I have to donate. In actual fact, I dont dispose of that much each season or year. I would be lying if I said there are not a few pieces in my donate box that were “fast fashion finds” that only made it through a few seasons. Those are the pieces that although I enjoyed wearing them for their short lived time, I regret purchasing. I would have rather paid more money for a similar, if not authentic variation of the style, made of better quality material where I could still wear it today. Now when I look for affordable trendy finds, I search out “quality pieces”  in natural fibres where I know it will withstand multiple washes and wears for a few seasons to go. Even still, I am leaning away from purchasing cheaper imitations to save up for the designer styles I ultimately desire, that will become staples in my wardrobe.

It is also a great time to get creative. Rather then tossing out what feels like “out-of-date” or “irrelevant” clothes in my closet, I have been finding new ways to reinterpret them with this seasons trends: Here are some of my tips and tricks:

  • Trying on new ways to wear a jacket or shirt (rolled up sleeves, popped collar, tucked-in…)
  • Cutting raw hem, edges and distressing on my denim jeans, jackets and shorts
  • Cutting new necklines or armhole shapes in “old” t-shirts with raw edges
  • Also bleaching & dip dying my denim
re-fashion

photo taken by moi

I encourage each of us to buy more intentionally and get more “fashion mileage” out of each piece we purchase. To buy with commitment, integrity and a sense of liability, as we must not only fall in love with just the fashion itself but the stories the clothes bring within them.

 

THE FUTURE OF FASHION THROUGH CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM

I recently read an interview with Julie Gilhart posted by BoF about Conscious Consumerism. Julie Gilhart was the former Fashion Director at Barney’s NY, currently a consultant to Amazon.com & their online clothing store.  What immediately caught my attention was her independent passion to merge her own sustainable beliefs & lifestyle into the world of fashion through conscientious decisions and empowerment.

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Known for her love of discovering, encouraging, supporting and connecting young design talent to retailers, Julie has significantly influenced the fashion industry, drawing attention to sustainable initiatives and designers alike.

For those of us who actively seek conscientious alternatives in our lifestyle, many of us remember when or what first triggered our change. As for myself, from a very early age I was concerned about the environment. I never littered, I was appalled by those who did (including friends of mine) and I went so far (& still do) to pick up the trash on the streets left ignorantly by others. I will never understand why some people think it was someone else’s job to pick up after them? Why should that job even exist…? Where in their upbringing were they told this is an okay’ behaviour…? It’s a strange sense of entitlement that I never understood.

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