The poorer people who go to fast fashion emporia may not be able to get together €3,000, writes Terry Prone.
FAMOUS people are saying things in the media that are making the rest of us wonder why.
Obviously, Prince Andrew is the key example, but Anna Wintour entered the ring last week when she opined that fast fashion was an evil.
“I think, for all of us, it means an attention more on craft, on creativity, and less on the idea of clothes that are instantly disposable, things that you will throw away just after one wearing,” Wintour told Reuters, adding that media outlets should be “talking to our audiences, our readers, about keeping the clothes that you own, and valuing the clothes that you own and wearing them again and again, and maybe giving them on to your daughter, or son, whatever the case may be.”
Wintour inspired the character played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada movie, a fashion magazine editor of terrifying focus and inhumanity.
Not that anybody would attribute inhumanity to Wintour. It’s just difficult to forget that a former colleague is rumoured to have defined her as “Nuclear Wintour”, although some of us think of her as “Our Lady of the Perpetual Pageboy”.
Likeable or not, this woman, now in her 70s, has defined how we look at fashion, through her editorship of Vogue and other Condé Nast publications. (She is currently artistic director of the group.)
It was at the announcement that Condé Nast is to become the first media company to join the United Nation’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action that she suggested that none of us should be rushing into fast fashion outlets and paying a few euro, or pounds or dollars, for shiny nonsense that we would toss aside as quickly as we would abandon a chick-lit novel.
I preened, so I did, when I read what she had said. I went to the wardrobe and stroked the ankle-length kilt hanging there, knowing it to be older than my grown-up son.
But still having the kilt speaks more to my weight problems than it does to my cherishing of good pieces of clothing.
It hasn’t exactly worn thin, because I’m a sort of slow-motion, yo-yo dieter and so get to fit in it for about three weeks once every 10 years. Nor is there a snowball’s chance in Hades that I am preserving it for another generation.
I cannot imagine any millennial wanting to do anything with any preserved piece of 1990s fashion, other than burn it.
And that’s the thing about most of the bits of clothing that have been hanging in my wardrobe for a long, long time. They’re not there for environmental reasons.
Nor do they meet the Marie Kondo specification that every time I open the wardrobe door, a surge of pure ecstasy should wash over me at the mere sight of them.
Various reasons of no intrinsic virtue explain why they are there. The shoes, for example, never wear out.
I do not understand why it is that the soles and heels of my shoes stay intact after decades of use, but they do. (Of course, me not walking anywhere, and having more than 100 pairs, might explain it.)
Then, there’s the beautifully made, beautifully preserved mink jacket that was once my mother’s pride and joy.
It was bought at a time when nobody cared much about fur, other than believing that it must be genuine.
Nobody cared about being cruel to the minks, because minks, back then, were the Harvey Weinstein of the animal kingdom.
They were so horrible to every other animal they met, nobody much cared about how they were farmed.
But times change, as Harvey found to his cost and minks to their benefit, and so now I have this beautiful, good-as-new fur jacket and I am afraid to wear it outside my house.
Its key contribution to my life is to be thrown over the end of the bed on cold nights. It’s just one of the “good pieces” I have that enable me to accidentally abide by the Wintour strictures.
But still, those garments, and that footwear, mean I was on the right side of this argument before it was an argument.
A pang of guilt, engendered by “when I were a lad”, unowned memories of the Depression era, hits me whenever I’m about to throw away an item of clothing.
I’m a frequenter of charity shops, too. I buy into the prospect of saving the planet from demise by reducing carbon generation, and it seems that abjuring fast fashion is one of the ways to do that.
But a small bit of me sees this as Anna Wintour meets Patek Philippe.
The latter is the watchmaker who pushes his luxury product with pictures of cashmere-clad men and women of understated, but inescapable, good looks exchanging loving glances with their children. The tag line is that you never own a Patek Philippe.
You merely take care of it for the next generation. Which, you must admit, is the quintessential capitalist’s family mission, uttered with such quiet insistence, you’d nearly want to re-mortgage the house and buy a PP watch just to be sure you’re giving your offspring what they really deserve.
The Anna Wintour position is not that far from the medieval sumptuary laws that regulated what you were allowed to wear and what you weren’t allowed to wear.
No prizes for guessing that the poor didn’t get fine silks and velvets. They weren’t even permitted a dash of purple.
Today, the younger and poorer people who frequent fast fashion emporia may not be able to get together the three thousand euro a luxury coat or suit would cost them, even if they wanted to be so restricted.
Which they would not.
Remember George Orwell, reflecting on a previous generation of the wealthy wanting to forcibly improve the behaviour of the lower orders, when he observed that the poor didn’t want nutritionally-balanced meals, they wanted tasty food?
Similarly, even the young who care desperately about planet survival are not, right now, interpreting that as related to them wearing cheap knockoffs of the elegantly tailored garments Anna Wintour wants us to buy. They want to look cool, right now, for what they can afford.