Two videos have stumbled in my path during the last week, both are about "fast fashion." The first, a feature length documentary called "The True Cost," I haven't had time to watch yet. But the trailer suggests a full frontal attack on the high cost of cheap fashion and our rapacious appetite for more clothing.
John Oliver of HBO's Last Week Tonight produced a scathing commentary on the fashion industry ("fashion - personality you can buy") in this seventeen minute clip that recently aired, chastising us for allowing huge fashion brands to do nothing more than bandaid repairs to their supply chains that allow for underaged workers and unsafe factory conditions, fixes that allowed us all to feel better without resolving the problem.
"We communicate who we are through clothing."
Clothing is a wonderful way to present our true selves to the world. Steve Jobs, President Obama, Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, and other famously successful individuals chose to wear a uniform of sorts rather than have to make another decision every morning, fighting decision fatigue with a singular overarching aesthetic. Of course, this sends a message as well. It is very lucky the person who can create their own uniform, and have the freedom to wear it most days, no matter how important the day's agenda.
What about the rest of us?
I love clothing, but age and wisdom (or laziness, you pick) have changed my feelings about shopping and the clothing I wear. I once read that we wear 10% of our wardrobe 90% of the time, and I can absolutely attest to the truth of that. I reach for the same skirts and tops over and over again. I recently bought some very nice fabric and made two lovely summer tops that I have worn on rotation a couple of times per week. They have become a uniform of sorts; they meet my needs for casual yet not sloppy. I can dress them up or down and they look great layered.
Recently, on Facebook, several friends linked to a new book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." The chapter that seemed to resonate with people the most was on paring down your wardrobe to what you actually wear, that you need to ask yourself why you are holding onto a particular item. From this vantage point we can go one step further, and question whether we really need to shop at all.
I'm pretty obsessed with disruption technology, and the other day while listening to the insightful "Creativity, Inc." written by Ed Catmull about the creative culture of Pixar, I started thinking about how the fashion industry needs to be disrupted. People are not going to drop everything and learn how to make their own clothing, no matter how many classes we offer, that's reality. But, 3D printed clothing - is it possible? An "artisan clothing movement 2.0?" My friend Kate is part of the 1.0 crowd. She creates clothes to order based on her designs and the customer's measurements. She creates a niche product, but it is one that is sustainable - fantastic aesthetic, handmade clothing that last for years, purposefully sourced organic fabrics, and it supports her family.
Meanwhile, technology is catching up (two selfies generating your measurements? awesome), so start thinking about what you like and think suits you, because 2.0 will be here before you know it, and the 21st century version of on-demand clothing is likely to change everything.