Fast Fashion | Vintage Fashion

Fast Fashion | Vintage Fashion

Sometimes we give up the things we really need (education, home, insurance, savings) for the instant gratification of inexpensive items that we can afford now and that briefly make us feel better, an impulse the fast fashion industry capitalizes on. Why fast? It’s quickly made, quickly consumed, and quickly discarded.

Garments are a deflationary product, meaning that they have gone down in price over the decades, about 15% since 1992, the year clothing prices peaked. Comparing this to a cumulative CPI inflation of 75% in the United States to the end of 2016, we now pay about half of what we did back then in this three trillion dollar industry.

Another amazing fact is that four times as much clothing is bought today than 20 years ago. This has mainly been enabled through globalization in manufacturing where the cheapest provider gets the business. Production has been moving from first Mexico, later to India, then China, Vietnam and now mostly Bangladesh.

Eco-Fashion to the Fore

In addition to the ugly stain of sweatshops across the developing world, surprisingly, the textile industry has become the second most polluting industry in the world after only oil. For the eco-conscious consumer, vintage fashion is therefore a logical – though not always obvious – choice.

Most such consumers would probably buy organic food, drive a low fuel consumption vehicle, and make extra efforts to recycle before considering their clothing consumption. There is a lot to be said for reducing one’s environmental footprint through wearing vintage clothing.

Recycling is precisely what modern vintage wear is all about but for one big difference. No additional manufacturing or processing takes place (as in most other recycling). Nothing is added to the original input cost of the item in question. Now add the “cool factor” and you’ve got a winning proposition on all fronts.

The Waste of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is not only tremendously wasteful, it's also hard on the pocketbook in the long run. As an old friend of mine told me years ago when debating the merit of such-and-such a carpentry tool versus another: “I can’t afford to buy cheap tools.” An attitude that has stayed with me ever since. I can’t remember too many tools I’ve ever had to replace – and I use my toolset constantly – except for a chainsaw a hippie friend of mine burned out by fueling it with the wrong gas mix. But I digress...

Trendy clothing is just that, fashionable while the particular, carefully orchestrated and pre-set trend lasts. Fashion houses make sure that period is only one season. Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the trends presented at the Big Four Fashion Weeks in the industry capitals of New York, London, Milan, and Paris in the early spring and in autumn of each year, which have been held for more than a hundred years.

Some of the leading fashion brands worldwide are Zara, T.J. Maxx (sister brand to Winners in Canada), and H&M. The latter is the world’s fifth largest fashion house and is entirely focused on fast fashion. Most others in the top ten are either sports brands (with Nike as the world’s largest fashion brand) or hold luxury labels.

What a contrast to clothing for vintage lovers! Of course brands also play a role for collectors of true vintage clothing. It’s a huge pleasure to find a pair of deadstock Bally shoes with leather soles in perfect condition, or a Dior raincoat that only needs a button (as I found a few years back and still delight in).

But vintage buyers don’t primarily shop for brands. They simply know that vintage fashion is cool and stays cool. One-of-a-kind pieces evoke whatever era we have already learned to love and look back on with fondness. And modern vintage fashion lovers feel free to combine elements from different eras into one unique look.

When you embrace an eclectic eco-fashion aesthetic – like pairing a 50s circle skirt with an 80s painted denim jacket – you create a very distinctive and individualistic  style that can be enjoyed for far longer than a season or two. And, perhaps most importantly, you can feel good about where your cash is going.

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