Responsible Fashion: How Far is TOO Far?
Couture fashion week just wrapped and we're just as sad as you. CFW is all about over the top glitz, glam, fabrics and shows! It's the culmination of our wildest fashion dreams. It's where art meets fashion. There are collections for indulgence, romance and others for provocation. The most provocative show this season was the Schiaparelli. Some praised the workmanship of the gorgeous looks inspired by "Dantes Inferno" while others criticized the work for perpetuating "violence against animals" although no animals were harmed in the construction of the garments. This made me wonder how far is too far as it pertains to fashion responsibility and is there truly a happy medium between responsibility and style? Whether you shop luxury, shop affordable, shop sustainable or thrift/upcycle there's harsh criticism coming your way. Let's chat about it ALL!
Luxury shoppers are the lovers of labels and all things opulent. The established fashion houses that exude luxury simply with their logo or the sound of their name are considered luxury brands. Think Chanel, Dior, Versace, Saint Laurent and Balmain. These brands don't skimp in design. The most decadent and ostentatious fabrics are used. Hand stitching is still very common. The three d's are very much the foundation of luxury brands: design, decadence and detail. This level of quality comes at a price, a hefty one! Luxury shoppers are criticized for being wasteful with finances and designers for wasting materials. Critics say that luxury shoppers are irresponsible with their money and instead should show more "responsibility" and buy cheaper things and donate the rest to other social causes. Luxe shoppers argue that "fast fashion" is more of a problem due to its limited closet life, poor quality and lack of warranty/repairability. Sourcing and labor force are also questionable in more "affordable" brands. Which lends itself to the use of toxic, cancer causing fabrics and child/slave labor.
Fast fashion is a more affordable alternative to most other purchase options. You want to think Fashionova, TJ Maxx and Forever 21 for example. This option offers a revolving door of style options at moderate quality and moderate pricing. Fast fashion girlies argue that the affordability allows them the ability to use their extra money to donate to other causes and support brands that don't use natural fibers deemed "inappropriate" such as fur and leather. Critics say that fast fashion piles up in landfills at alarming rates and supports companies that utilize slave labor and toxic chemicals. Critics also suggest fast fashion is aiding in the decline of the arts due to the "replication" of existing styles created by luxury brands and other higher end creatives.
Sustainable fashion brands seek to overcome the obstacles seen in all other options. The fabrics are responsibly sourced, recyclable and normally your purchase triggers the company to take an action to pay it forward to people in need. Think of Toms as an example. Sustainable fashion can be just as expensive as luxury designs and is almost always more expensive than fast fashion. For this reason, critics say that sustainable fashion shoppers are virtue signaling and just as frivolous with their money as luxury shoppers. They suggest that if sustainable shoppers truly cared about the causes aligned with their favorite sustainable brands, they'd buy less expensive options and give directly to those causes. While sustainable shoppers argue that they shouldn't have to compromise quality if they're doing their best to be responsible with their purchases all while helping others at the same time.
Upcycling and thrifting are v trendy right now. The original source of an upcycled or thrifted garment could be any of the aforementioned sources. The benefits of thrifting and upcycling is extending the closet life of a garment and shortening it's time in a landfill. Potentially slowing down the need for more fast fashion creations. In the case of thrifting COSTis a major benefit! Critics say that thrifters are frugalistas robbing the less fortunate and making less options available to the people who truly need it. They also argue that the supply chain theft from donor to sales floor leaves the most undesirable items available to those who need them. Critics also believe that upcycling has become so trendy that upcycle designers are only "saving" luxury and designer items and selling them at an equally high price making the products inaccessible to most. Upcycle/Thrift shoppers argue that there is not only one kind of shopper for these products and that it's better for the environment to recycle and reimagine fashions. They believe that the cycle of give, take and recreate benefits everyone.
The real question is, how much is too much and how much do you have to give to be doing your part? It really seems like no matter what you do someone's not going to approve. Do we all need to block off time to research every company we make a purchase with and make sure they're sourcing responsibly? Is it fair enough to believe their mission statements and promises to do their best? Is one style of shopping better than the other? I believe that we can all agree that slave labor and child labor is a hard no but beyond that how deep do we have to dig? How critical must we be? Join the conversation below and don't forget to share with you BFF (best fashion friend)!