Lost in a world of mass consumption

You can have any colour you want as long as it’s black! -No wait- Now there’s also blue, red, green, yellow, magenta….

“You can have any colour you want as long as it’s black!” – This famous quotation was uttered by Henry Ford in 1909 when introducing the Model T. Basically what he meant was that you had two choices. A black car or no car at all. Now in 2012 this business model seems unthinkable. We have the luxury of being able to get any colour any design and virtually anything customized for our pleasure – and yet I long back for those days where a decision was as simple as black or none at all. You ask why? Simply because back then people still valued their possesions!

It all began two weeks ago. I was asked by my Professor to read a case study about Zara.

“Zara?! – You mean the fashion brand Zara?” Image

But it wasn’t my ears playing tricks on me, he actually wanted us to research Zara. So I started and after reading a case study about it I realized two things.

Firstly even though I had been to Zara countless of times I did not know jack about it and secondly we truly live in a world of mass consumption.

What struck me most about the article was a concept called “fast fashion” which is not only practiced by Zara but also other chain stores like H&M, The Gap, Primark or Benetton. Basically fast fashion is the answer to the consumers’ cries for even more clothes and accessoires at an even higher speed. Clothing stores strive to manufacture designs and trends seen on catwalks at the fastest rate possible to deliver the latest styles at the lowest price. Especially Zara has perfected this business model. Whereas other stores change their stock every month or so, Zara manages to add new clothes to their stores twice a week. Fashion has accelerated, prices have dropped and consumers have adapted – we’ve learned to buy more clothes and value them less. It was then that I realized how insane this never-ending longing for new, better and improved things is.

You can compare fast fashion to the production of fast food. Not only do both abbreviate to FF but you have chain stores in every neighborhood and instead of a nutritious healthy meal you simply grab a cheap unhealthy burger. No expenditure required, no value gained. Both are addictive but not necessarily good for you.

Fast fashion like fast food enhances mass consumption. It makes clothes easily disposable not only because of the lower quality and the fast pace with which trends change, but also because of the low prices. These clothes are not intended to last long but only until the next trend arrives and so they are discarded by us without hesitation. And because of the low prices we simply continue on buying new clothes, convincing ourselves we’ve just made a bargain. Ironically we usually end up spending more money than we would on high quality clothes. Instead of buying the one item we actually need we also buy the pair of shoes, the sweater and cute jeans we just couldn’t resist..

In discussion of fast fashion opinions deviate. On the one hand people might argue that picking up on every season’s trend is only giving the consumers what they want. On the other hand rivals object this concept enhances a trend of throwaway fashion, which can not be ethically justified. I have to say I agree with the latter. I started thinking about my grandmother, who still has most of the dresses she wore when she was my age. Me and my sister loved playing dress up in those and used to listen eagerly to what she had experienced in them ,mesmerized by her stories. That was when I realized this sort of fashion is not only wasteful and bad for the environment but also prevents us from truly appreciating and through that enjoying our clothes.

What I want to do is try and give you some hints on how to avoid this trend of fast fashion and devaluing by simply buying smarter.

  • Chart how much you actually spend on clothes

I found this neat little tool an a blog. It’s called Mint.com and if you plug in your banking information it will give you an overview of how much of your money finds its way back into your closet. You might be shocked by the result. And if you don’t feel comfortable revealing your bank information you can simply start by taking note of your expenses and then adding them up at the end of each month. Start thinking about the things you could have spend your money on instead – like a night out with your friends.

  •  Look for hidden treasures

Don’t always think you need new clothes to spice up your wardrobe. Simply learn how to combine your own things differently. Look for every item you already have and get inspired by looking at trends in fashion magazines. Think about how you might be able to copy them.

  • Don’t discard – Recycle

Don’t just throw away clothes you don’t like anymore but fold them away for next year. It’ll seem like a new sweater to you all over again. And if you’re so lucky as to live with a fellow person your size – borrow and exchange stuff. Or simply organize your very own private flea market. Everyone can bring the clothes they don’t like anymore and who knows – her old jacket might be your new favorite.

  • Get creative

Try updating your clothes on your own. Start simple by sowing on a button and then work your way up to more elaborate things like tailoring your own skirt, put some effort into it. You’ll definitely value your clothes more and you might even find it entertaining. Search around Youtube for some helpful tutorials and ask friends for some input and inspiration.

  • Take your time

Whilst shopping really think about what you need and what you want. Don’t buy in the heat of the moment because you will most certainly get carried away, but put the jeans you so desperately need back onto their shelf, go back home, sleep on it and see if you still need them in the morning.

Also always ask yourself these questions: Does it really fit? Is it scratchy or uncomfortable? How long will it last? – now don’t get me wrong you don’t need to deprive yourself of ever buying any new clothes I mean I’m just a girl as well but if you can answer all these question to your satisfaction you’ll avoid owning clothes you never wear.

  • Remember – Fashion isn’t therapy

Although scientist actually proved that shopping increases your endorphin levels and therefore make you happy the rush does not last and soon you’ll be left wanting more. Fashion truly is an addiction but instead of getting the next fix just try some aversion therapy.

Why not cook with your friends instead?! Doing sports or reading a book are also fine alternatives. You’ll find the satisfaction is more sustainable and your wallet will thank you as well.

So if you follow at least some of these steps I believe you’ll be able to see through the fog that is mass consumption and only buy the things you truly value. And who knows maybe one day you’ll find that it’s your grandchild playing dress up in your clothes full of cherished memories.

About Nicpic

My name is Nicola but I usually go by Nicky. I'm 21 years old and study International Business Management at the HWR in Berlin. Before moving to Berlin I spent a year traveling around Southeast Asia as well as Australia. I am very passionate about different cultures, languages and exploring the world, which is partially due to the fact that I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia for four and a half years. Apart from that I am a huge music fan and love doing all sorts of team sports, whether it's Basketball, Soccer or Volleyball. Fastexposure is my first Blog, which I am really enjoying so far! I try to offer a great variety of topics always with a hint of humour and some personal experiences since I find those stories are easier and more enjoyable to read! Still I hope I can also always offer some interesting new facts. If you have any further questions,input, ideas or would like to be included as a part time Blogger just contact me! Cheers and enjoy our Blog!
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4 Responses to Lost in a world of mass consumption

  1. mirkalilka says:

    The blog post seems really authentic and lively to me. I think most of us have experienced the “Oh, don’t know what to wear today” or “I don’t have anything that looks good in my closet”- thing, I mean especially the girls feel like that. But that’s a true story in our modern-day society. Today’s fashion is a throwaway fashion as you pointed out and it’s sad that we have reached that point. We are no longer able to value our clothes and tend to throw away anything that is older than 6 months because the trends change so fast and we have to keep up with them. In fact, it’s a pretty bad habit. I also remember those times when I was a little child and played dress up with my mum’s clothes and it was a unique experience. The quality was completely different, the fabrics were soft and the cuts were original. However, I’m glad that you’ve tried to give the reader some kind of advice on how we could behave in a different way. It appeals to me and it’s indeed helpful. I guess that a few of us have already followed this set of rules, but it’s more difficult than it seems. I appreciate your style of writing and I absolutely got carried away while reading it but I also would like to know how you act in these situations and whether you have “achieved” something.

  2. Mai says:

    Fast fashion: slowly everybody is getting aware of it, but only few do something against it, I mean companies have to earn their money, don’t they? But I totally agree with you, we don’t appreciate what we have any more, and it is not only clothing but other things as well. Again fast food is a great example. Today’s society is going so fast, there is no time for cooking with friends or playing some games like Monopoly all together.
    Regarding fashion, thank you for your tips. I think I don’t talk for myself when I say everybody sometimes finds oneself going shopping as a therapy 😉
    But regarding fast fashion, there are already some people starting to act. I have heard of swapping parties, where you can bring your old clothes and swap them with others. Or flea markets, they are quite popular these days. And of course, like in Mirella’s post mentioned, vintage is surely an alternative which is getting more and more popular. Actually DIY(do it yourself) is in everybody’s mouth right now. So let’s give it a try 🙂

  3. Nicpic says:

    Hi Mirella and Mai,
    thanks for the comments I’m glad you enjoyed my post and am really grateful for the feedback!
    Concerning your question Mirella, I actually did try all of those hints and found that the one which helped me most was taking my time. I get carried away quite easily when I’m shopping and end up with way more stuff than I really need. By not buying the clothes right away I have a minute to cool off and realize that I do not necessarily need or want that second skirt which if I’m being completely honest is not all that different from the three I already have 😉
    And thanks for the info Mai I will definitely try the vintage shops next!

  4. Pingback: 3 weeks of blogging , being creative and exposing « fastexposure

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