Fashion and consumerism

I remembered from the book “Gone with the Wind” that during the blockade, Rhett Butler was the source of fashion information from the outside world for the girls and women in Atlanta. People believe in what Captain Butler described, and they dressed up according to it.

So I thought at that time that fashion is really a result of the psychology of group perception. Rhett Butler could have told something wrong to make the Atlanta women look ridiculous. But the thing is, even if the information is wrong, when the majority of people believe that certain clothes is fashionable, everyone in that society has to follow that code if they don’t want to look stupid. And some of the fashions do look stupid!

And fashion keeps changing all the time. Therefore, we are forced to invest money to buy new clothes before our old clothes are worn out.

I look upon this phenomenon as a shrewd marketing strategy. Here’s why. The demand for clothes is not limitless. If people buy clothes only to keep warm and not to be naked, the fashion industry won’t be able to make a lot of money. Therefore, the industry needs new means to generate demand. So all kinds of fashion magazines and big fashion shows around the world start to send out a message to the public: “See, you are out of date again! Go and buy this new style.” When the new fashion is being accepted by the public, it would be really hard for us human not to follow the trend and make ourselves feel safer in the crowd.

By unceasingly creating new fashion, the whole industry is making much tons of profit. But we often notice that the fashion is turning around in a cycle. The out-of-date products from thirty years ago are taking the lead again in this year’s fashion show. That is because the industry is running out of new ideas. Creating new fashion is adding new cost to the fashion industry, therefore the most economic way is to pick out some old clothes from the garage and make it fashionable again.

It is important to notice that the distribution of profit in fashion industry is quite similar to all cultural production. Those who make the most money are designers, models and their agents, event organizer, publications (fashion magazine), big brands that creates fashion and so on. Factories that really make the product are at the bottom of the industry chain. Most of them are in China. They are not making a lot of money. They are making pollutions.

There seems to be no problem in this system. Normal people have fun, people in the fashion industry get rich and famous. In the end, we love beautiful things, and we enjoy shopping. But one negative effect is that this way of consumption is creating huge waste and unhealthy values like extravagance, flamboyance and materialism. Some of the values are even totally sick. For example, a few years ago, some models starved themselves to death because they want to be skinny, which was the “fashion” at that time.

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