As mentioned in previous posts I have worked in all facets of the vintage clothing and fashion industry from a picker at rag houses for gritty vintage stores, to working in High end designer department stores to working with high end designer vintage clothing and designing for a fast food fashion company that designed for large monster chain stores and finally as a fashion stylist…. in short I have seen it all!
I remember several years ago while working at a Kensington Market vintage shop; a high end designer that shall not be named; came into the shop and bought some western shirts that were hanging outside in the sun and as a result these shirts had bleached out on the shoulders, they were greatly reduced in price because of this, If I remember correctly they were around $5/shirt. At the same time as working at this shop I was also moonlighting at a high-end designer retailer that carried the collection of the designers mentioned above. A few months later when their collection came out, lo and behold knock offs of those very same vintage shirt’s I had sold them were in the collection, exact same fabric and even the sun-bleached shoulders. Now I’m not saying this is a bad thing, on the contrary I think it’s fantastic! Because it makes my case for collaborative consumption all the more enticing. If these designers are getting their inspiration from the past, (and they all are) why can’t we go to the source of their inspiration and buy directly?
Most of the public has no idea this sort of thing is going on and there fore will pay an arm and a leg for designer product that is just a copy of the past. What I am saying with this story is that with a little creativity and knowledge of your own style and a little historical info you can find some amazing pieces in second hand shops, at clothing swaps , vintage stores and consignment stores; and you can rival if not surpass those who spend loads on new designer clothing, and on top of being incredibly stylish you will have bragging rights because you paid next to nothing for your outfit while little miss designer wearing branded to the hills mortgaged her house for hers. Besides everyone knows real style can’t be bought it’s part of the individual not just what you buy.
Now I’m not some hippy chick in Birkenstocks wearing Patchouli oil I am a fashionista to the core!! I love clothes, I love looking good, and I love standing out in a crowd and I’m damn good at it too! But I also love people and the environment and know that there needs to be some balance met, we can’t keep on the way we are and expect nothing to give out.
I can take a little black dress wear it 5 days in a row and have a different outfit everyday.
Most of you have heard that fashion is cyclical but what does that mean? It means that there is nothing new in fashion, no new shapes styles or fabrics all designers borrow from the past, even going as far as copying their old collections, as an example.
1960’s Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy hat
2007 Balenciaga helmet hat
The cycles are getting shorter, I’m 30 years old and this is the 3rd time in my life that bell bottoms and platform shoes have come back in style, Now the 80’s are back in a big way with high-waisted denim acid washed jean shorts, neon and excessively padded shoulders. You can find all of this stuff for next to nothing at your local vintage shops instead of H&M.
Levis destroyed denim shorts 80’s inspired
Real deal 80’s shorts
That brings me to the question
What is collaborative consumption?
Collaborative consumption is just a fancy way of saying sharing, kindergarten stuff! But In these trying times I think going back to our roots and the simple rules given to us by our parents and teachers are the best ones to live by.
- Be kind
- Treat others how you want to be treated!
- Don’t waste!
- And wear clean underwear!!
These 5 rules of behavior are simple and easy to follow but we as a society rarely use them and unfortunately it is at the expense of the weakest poorest and most marginalized people in our society.
Here are some reasons you should inject these simple pennants into your life and style and start collaborating in your closets.
- Be kind,
- Treat others as you would wish to be treated
The fashion industry is a multi billion dollar industry, It is also an exploitive one most of the worlds clothes are made on the backs of people living in the developing world, who are rarely if ever fairly compensated for their efforts. Even the big designers who sell their clothes for exorbitant prices are paying pennies to make these items; they are not made in any better factory than the ones at Walmart, in some cases they are even made in the same factories as Walmart.
Here is some food for thought, a pair of jeans; even the most expensive high end designer brand from the chicest couture house cost no more than $15 landed that’s design, patterns, raw materials fabric, construction, dyes, decorative stitching, shipping, boarder fees etc…$15 and that’s top end denim which is selling upwards of $500/pair. Most other denim costs under $7, these same jeans are being sold for over $100.00 most for much more than that. It’s shocking when you think about it, and know how much work and how many resources go into making one pair of jeans, How is it possible that they can only cost that little? Someone is being ripped of somewhere…maybe it’s you??
- Don’t waste
The fashion industry is also incredibly detrimental to the environment, most fabrics are petroleum based and if they aren’t heavy amounts of pesticides are used in the crops such as cotton and linen used to make materials and on top of that these crops are using up land that could be used to feed the rest of the world instead is used to meet the demand for new clothing.
Lets go through what it takes to make a $30 T-shirt
Step 1. Grow the cotton taking up precious farmland, exploiting workers and using GE crops and Loads of pesticides.
Step 2. Make raw cotton fiber into Cotton Jersey, spin fibers using a gas and oil powered monster machine.
Step 3. Dye the fibers using toxic dyes, in some cases like in heathered T-s combine petroleum based polyester with the cotton fiber that needs an even more toxic dye to penetrate the synthetic filament, use up clean water in places where there are finite amounts of clean drinking water available for people to consume,
step 4. Knit bolts of Cotton or Poly cotton Jersey using another monster gas and oil based machine .
Step 5. Send bolted fabric by truck or boat or airplane to another factory to manufacture the Cotton or Poly Cotton Jersey into finished T-shirt, serging the seams with electric (but ultimately gas and oil powered because that’s where electricity comes from) sergers making the workers work endless hours without breaks benefits or proper pay. Send the T-shirts through another massive machine to print with a 1, 2,3, 4 or 5 colored screen print using toxic petroleum based inks.
Step 4. Send the finished T’shirts by boat or plane to the West and sell for $30
Clothes don’t just happen! Because a T-shirt on the shelf is $30 doesn’t mean it is worth that much countless resources and countless peoples hard work went into making that t-shirt, all of that deserves to be honored and respected not tossed away because the next hot new thing is out.
There are trillions of pounds of used clothing out there why do we need to keep manufacturing when there is more than enough to go around. I’m not saying giving up on manufacturing completely but if we greatly reduced our consumption of new stuff and used up what we already have we could build an economy one ingenuity usefulness and sharing, I’m not speaking out of my ass here, the used clothing industry is a multi billion dollar industry
There are people in the world who can’t afford new clothes sharing what you have with those less fortunate can make a big difference in their lives. Unfortunately our society and human nature puts a lot of weight on how we present ourselves. Giving others the opportunity to look put together and nice can help give them a leg up in the world and allow others to take them more seriously. There are a few fabulous charities that do such a thing.
Sharing is caring people it also makes you feel good and you will be surprised by how little you need and how much you don’t need to hang onto. And you have no idea how incredibly grateful some of these people would be to have your old white shirt.
A society should be judged by how it treats the weakest and most marginalized individuals.
I’m not telling you to never ever buy something new again but if we can look back to our grandparents time and use what we already have I can pretty much guarantee that we will be a much happier healthier society, still be wildly stylish yet individual but be in a much healthier state.
You may be only one person but if enough people choose to forgo purchasing new clothing for even one season and partake in collaborative consumption either by re-using your own clothing buying second hand or just trading with your friends it could send a very clear message to the fashion industry that it is time for a change in business practice and how people are treated.
Collaborative consumption is good for fashion and style because it forces you to be creative within confines of whats available, re-uses and uses up the massive amounts of already manufactured goods and creates individual un-copyable style. it also puts you on par with the designers because you are borrowing from the past.
Lets all take a stand together and decide to stylishly stand up for the environment and human rights.
I hope to see you all out at a clothing swop or digging through a bin at a vintage shop.
and remember ALWAYS WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR!! why? Because it’s just good advice.