Fast Fashion & the ‘Material World.’
I cannot believe that it has been eight months since my last blog post, time really does fly! As I embark upon my final year of studying Communication and PR an aspect of life has my creative mind ticking. Not much has changed over the last eight months, in fact I am pretty sure that I still adore Cacti as I outlined in my last blog and I am 100% certain that my love for food, coffee shops and fashion has not changed either (throwing that out there). I will also just add that my love for Instagram and taking aesthetic photographs still consumes me- shocker. What has changed the most over the past few months is my outlook in life. My outlook on how we are guilty of trying to constantly pursue the latest trends, desperately wanting to live a life full of hope and false fantasies. Now, you may be giving me major eye rolls right now and as cliché as it sounds I genuinely believe that most things happen for good reason. We do openly follow our passions and there is nothing wrong with that. We are all a little guilty of wanting more than what we already have and if you are reading this thinking, hold up. I do enjoy following trends, then you are not alone. However, what happens when we place all our focus on only the most attractive and aesthetic aspects? Are you that material girl, living in a material world?
Fashioning the self
A recent trip to London Fashion Week inspired me to think about the pressures to conform to the latest trends- let’s not forget that both leopard and snake print are dominating the population of Belfast. So much so we could to create a second Zoo (90% of my wardrobe). We are each guilty of religiously following others who inspire us or those who we believe to be ‘role models.’ I believe that there is a negative stigma around the material items in life and rightly so. When we think of material items our minds wonder to Gucci, Prada and investing in luxury fashion brands. We may even think of our favourite online influencers and how they fashion the latest trends- not to mention the ‘social influencers take on cycling shorts’ wave which left us feeling a little Tour de France/ Bradley Wiggins (Sorry, I had to).
Behind the seams of reality
Our Instagram platforms have become a playground for flashing material items. It almost feels like an online shop, yet we are sucked in by aesthetic travel photographs that surround these gorgeous clothing posts. For me, this all feels a little wrong. I am growing tired of the volume of ‘fast fashion’ brands that are so cleverly luring us in. Only to try on the dress to discover that it works better as a boob tube/ crop top and the material is as thin and see through as clingfilm. On another side note, I can openly admit that I am a keen consumer of fast fashion. As much as I try to avoid it the student life really does force us to swap luxury for affordable, with little thought about the materials used- here lies the problem.
In this digital era, I believe that there is a greater pressure to showcase our lives on Instagram. We almost use it as a mirror, reflecting an articulated image of how we wish to be viewed by our followers. This is not healthy. When I buy a new item of clothing I appreciate how it looks and feels, not only on the hanger but how it fits my body. This is the beauty of fashion as it enables us to appreciate colours, prints and textures as a form of visual communication. Taking Fashion Week as an example, I was in awe of the array of designers showcasing garments that communicated their brand story- this is the value that is important. Designers invest time and creative effort in developing a brand, which is why following ‘fast fashion’ can defeat the purpose of buying clothing to keep in the long run. If your closet is anything like mine, I can put my hands up and admit that I am awful for hoarding clothes. Regardless of how many times I have tried to flog my clothes on Depop- it is a vicious cycle!
‘Keep the snakes away, unless they’re Gucci’
The truth is that nothing should be ‘fast’ about fashion. Investing in luxury does not consist of spending all of your pay on expensive designer gear either, nor does it mean flashing these items online. From a student’s viewpoint, I do not believe that it is realistic for us to splash out on luxury brands, or to try to prove to others that we can afford this kind of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ lifestyle- we are only kidding ourselves really. The purpose of this blog post is to prove that life is far too short to worship designer brands and materialistic items (Ok, life is also too short not buy shoes, keep it on the down low). Think about the long run. These items will never truly matter to us, they may only influence how we feel at the time of purchase- that feeling is short-lived. Think about the real bodies in our lives, the ones who invest in us and bring us joy. People that are relentlessly by your side and will be a lot longer that a bottle of Gucci Perfume.
It has become extremely difficult in society to identify the true value in people, especially with online platforms concealing our true selves. In reality we are crying out for authenticity. All too often we are told to ‘get out there, follow your dreams and afford that fancy car alongside that high-powered job.’ Is it any wonder why students and young adults in their 20s feel obliged to conform to such ideas? The pressure is all too much to afford life’s ‘little luxuries.’ To live in a society that tells us how to ‘work fast and live fast’ is becoming a challenge and I can admit to feeling overwhelmed by how I should live my life. The bottom line is to work hard enough that success becomes your noise but equally to have the time of your life. How does that saying go? Work hard, play harder.
Does my environmental impact look big in this?
Delving deeper into this topic I discovered that ‘fast fashion’ has received a lot of negative media coverage recently. Our love for fashion is taking its toll on the environment as in the UK alone we are consuming 26.7kg of new clothing per head each year. It is not only fast fashion brands that are to blame as it is also expected that 3,781 litres of water is used in a full lifetime of a single pair of Levi’s 501 jeans. This is just a snapshot of how our fashion consumption is spiralling out of control. I guess we could say that having something at our disposal only devalues that item, it is all too easy to make an online purchase without adding any genuine value- a theory that applies to a lot of aspects of life. When something is readily available, we take it for granted. Investing in statement items that are durable, high quality and affordable is the best method.
As I draw my fashion ramblings to a close, I want to stress how easy it is for us to feel pressured by clothing brands. Being lured in by marketing and influencers online has a negative effect on our mental health. This concludes why materialistic items will never maintain true value. Yes, clothes are beautiful, they are powerful but they will always be around for us to purchase. Ask yourself this, if everything you possessed was striped back, what would we be left with? We may be cold and a little naked, but we would be guaranteed to be surrounded by those we love. So, sorry Madonna, living in the material world is not all that it would appear to be!
Kathryn Bigger is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.