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The Tyranny of Trends

Aug 5, 2011

by fablefoundation handmade and vintage goods

Charty Durrant is a former fashion editor for The Sunday Times, The Observer and British Vogue, and is a lecturer in contemporary communication at The London College of Fashion. You can find more of Charty’s work on her website, and hear her in person at the Hello Etsy conference in Berlin!

Humanity has always adorned and embellished. From earliest times we have painted ourselves and distinguished one tribe from another by our clothes, jewellery and hair – it is an innate part of us. The artistry and celebration attached to adornment and embellishment are natural and confirm the creative capacity of humankind.

Yet as we move further into the 21st century it is clear that the entire planet is out of balance, and nowhere is this demonstrated more comprehensively than in the fashion industry. Whilst some issues are beginning to be addressed, social injustices such as sweatshops and child labour remain unresolved. But what we are only now beginning to register is the acute and profound social, spiritual and psychic damage we humans are suffering from after half a century of unrestrained greed, a daily diet of advertising, and rampant over-consumption.

Our lust for shopping and our sophistry for style have taken us into a critical new arena. Human identity is now defined by what one owns rather than who one is. Our looks have never been so important – celebrity-obsession and self-obsession reveal a new cultural neurosis. The vast majority of the world now spends its leisure time shopping for fashion and considers it an important part of life. But at what cost?

As a fashion editor of twenty years’ standing I have found it extremely uncomfortable to admit that the seemingly harmless fashion industry is actually driving our demise. It is at the heart of all that ails us; pull at any social or environmental thread, and it will lead you back to the fashion industry.

Fashion has always served as a cultural barometer, measuring the zeitgeist of any given period. The most obvious example would be the appearance of the mini skirt or the vivid psychedelic prints of the 1960s as clear symbols of liberation and fun. True to its role as society’s mirror, fashion reflects the cultural distortion of our times. Many of the recent catwalk shows echo distorted social trends, as designers showed either tiny, child-sized clothing, or ludicrously bloated, outsize silhouettes. It is important to note that most designers are looking back in time for inspiration, clearly demonstrating a zeitgeist that is terrified of its future. Much of Western society is in the grip of an unprecedented illusion and is deeply entangled within it. Modern icons are no longer poets, statesmen or rock stars – they are models.

This distortion does not simply apply to clothing. It is reflected in our bodies as well. Eating disorders, self-harm and body dysmorphia are endemic modern symptoms. And as the effects of the credit crunch begin to take hold, psychologists have coined a term for heavily addicted shoppers who eschew food in order to afford the clothing they crave: “fashionrexic.”

We are obsessed with our appearance. Due to sophisticated technological advancement it is now very hard to tell whether teeth, breasts, lips and hair are our own; whether the suit I am wearing is Prada or Primark; and, in a good light, whether I am twenty-four or forty. What marks this phase in humanity now is our dedication to self.

We can, and do, with relative ease, improve our looks with Photoshop and airbrush ourselves into a new reality. No matter whether we actually like the style or not: we are very powerfully persuaded to conform and go with the trend in order to appear fashionable. The consumer is now tyrannised by trends. The market is saturated and people are beguiled, bedazzled and bewildered by “choice.” The irony of the situation is that in reality we have very little consumer choice at all. But for a tiny design flourish here or colour option there, most fashionable shops, cafés, coats, dresses, cars and magazines all look the same: the consumer equivalent of a monoculture.

I believe that we are in one of the most conventional historical periods of all time. A glance down any high street in any country in the world will show how conformist and similar we now look. The combination of globalisation, the rise of the Internet and the domination of fast fashion means that, with a few rare exceptions, we really do all look the same.

Fast fashion is a relatively new phenomenon: it was not until the 1990s that we saw the rise of Primark, Zara and their ilk, with women’s magazines urging weekly wardrobe revisions, supported by just-in-time production and overnight global distribution. Fast fashion found its feet, and the industry congratulated itself on “democratising” fashion, making it affordable for all.

Mass production and sweatshops have existed since long before the 1960s, but the new demands of ever-increasing output and more sophisticated design have pushed garment-makers into a new pressure zone. That the makers of these clothes are highly skilled, producing complex cutting and highly accomplished hand finishing – the quality of which has never been seen on the high street before – often goes unnoticed. What had previously taken at least a day to make is now expected to be made, perfectly, in an hour.

As sales rose, fast-fashion brands and factory owners colluded to push garment workers harder and harder. More and more workers were hired, whilst working conditions and wages deteriorated, simple human rights such as rest times, toilet breaks and food were, and continue to be, restricted, and child labour became an effective tool in quenching consumers’ desire for more and more stuff. As the money rolled in, nobody liked to question the ethics of such practice.

Marks & Spencer, Gap and Primark have all been exposed for bad practice and appalling treatment of out-workers. They all now claim to have rectified this, but the process remains less than transparent and there is currently no way the consumer can guarantee that clothing has been made without misery. British billionaire Philip Green, who owns some of the United Kingdom’s largest retail chains, is a controversial figure at the centre of this debate. As one of the most powerful players in fast fashion, Green could at a single stroke reverse fashion malpractice and pioneer real change for the better. He continues to resist and has made almost no effort to make or demonstrate progress on fair pay and fair conditions for workers, either overseas or in the UK. Garment workers for his Arcadia group continue to exist on a derisory wage and are not given basic worker rights. Anti-sweat-shop groups such as Labour Behind the Label, No Sweat and the student activist network People & Planet have condemned Arcadia group and Green for these practices.

It is interesting to note the relatively recent high-profile exit of the managing director of Topshop, Jane Shepherdson – regarded as the creative force behind Topshop’s phenomenal financial upturn – who now works for Whistles and Oxfam. Shepherdson produced a brand for Oxfam aimed at ethically conscious shoppers. She receives no pay for this and has hit out at “cheap clothes that exploit workers in developing countries.” In response, Topshop has just launched an “eco” range of clothing, but it seems little more than an experiment in green-wash.

Modern fashion is made from many seemingly incompatible ingredients, but the cornerstones are built-in obsolescence, fear of humiliation, and sexual attraction. Warmth, comfort and personal style have for the most part taken a back seat. As the trend frenzy deepens, we can see that fashion is no longer about style and self-expression: it is primarily about judgement – self-judgement and judgement of others. A toxic media reporting how women ought to look, and celebrity obsession further enforce this strange new paradigm.

Our self-image is distorted and it is now an indisputable fact that our collective psyche is in deep pain. Thirty years ago divorce, pornography, underage sex, drug addiction and teenage suicide were rare. Today they are pretty much the norm. The recent Good Childhood report commissioned by The Children’s Society confirms the malaise and observes that today’s children are more “anxious and troubled” and their lives are “more difficult” than in the past. The report concludes that this is due to the quest for material success by adults, who, it suggests, must confront their individualistic culture by focusing on helping others rather than pursuing their own selfish ends. We are not bad parents: we are merely mistakenly gripped by the illusion of glamour. By buying into the illusion, it could be said that we are committing slow suicide. We may look good, but we feel bad.

At the core of much of Western culture’s present malaise is the endless “fast-feast” of consumerism. Twenty-four-hour Internet shopping and sophisticated marketing have boosted fashion retail into an international leisure sport. We are none of us immune to the manipulative methods of the advertising industry, and it ignites artificial needs in all of us. This is particularly evident within fashion advertising, which manages to simultaneously intimidate and enthral.

British psychologist Oliver James asserts in his book Affluenza that there is a correlation between the increasing nature of affluence and the resulting increase in material inequality; the more unequal the society, the more unhappy its citizens. We have seen this played out acutely in recent years with the rise of “luxury fever” – where brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace produce ever more astonishingly expensive products. Last year footballer David Beckham gave his wife an £80,000 diamond-encrusted Hermès handbag for Christmas, sparking a rash of high-street look-alike bags at a fraction of the price.

As technology “improves,” manufacturers can replicate a designer item in no time. Fast fashion now has a six-week rather than a seasonal cycle, in order to lure customers back into stores more frequently. It is testament to the garment workers’ skill and expertise that we often find it hard to distinguish the real from the counterfeit – these days often the only difference is a small design flourish, the label and the price tag.

The true ecological and economic impact of fashion is inescapable. Much of the pesticide-ridden cotton now produced by the United States is exported to China and other countries with low labour costs, where it is milled and woven into fabrics, cut and assembled according to fashion industry specifications, then flown around the world. China has emerged as the largest single exporter of fast fashion, accounting for 30% of all world apparel exports, according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database.

In her book, The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, Pietra Rivoli, a professor of Business at Georgetown University, writes that each year Americans purchase approximately a billion garments made in China. Fashion-related pollution in Africa, India and Brazil is now well-documented and continues to cause concern, and new alarms have been raised after reports revealed the Mexican city Tehuacán is facing serious water and land pollution due to the heavy use of the bleaching agent potassium permanganate to distress denim.

What is clear is that our obsession with fashion is now quite literally costing us the Earth. The water-hungry processes in the manufacture and dyeing of clothing have a devastating impact. At the 2008 Be The Change conference in London, writer and environmental campaigner Maude Barlow confirmed that China has now reached its “water wall” and is facing critical water shortages, having destroyed 80% of its rivers with toxic chemicals and dyes and squandered its own water resources to make cheap clothing for export to the West.

Fast fashion leaves a significant environmental and social footprint: each step of the clothing life cycle creates environmental and occupational hazards. Because of the insidious pressure of trends and built-in obsolescence, the average garment only has a three-month shelf life. UK clothing and textile consumption is high; Dorothy Maxwell’s recent Sustainable Clothing Road Map for Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) confirmed that over 2 million tonnes of clothing are purchased in the UK every year. Most shocking of all is that we throw away over a million tonnes of textiles every year, most of it ending up in landfill. Landfilled textiles, garment dyes and bleaches cause toxic chemical seepage into ground and watercourses, and the build-up of methane gas as materials decompose causes further health hazards.

The fashion industry’s pollution problems are multi-layered, and the cost is human and environmental; from unsustainable farming practices, uncontrolled pesticide use and toxic dyes to the squandering and contamination of global water reserves and the concerns over textile landfill, the debate gets ever more complex. It has been estimated that it takes 800 litres of water to grow the cotton for just one pair of jeans.

The trend for organic cotton over the past few years, though well-meaning, is not the whole solution, as cotton is a very thirsty crop. While some ethical designers provide good-quality, fairly traded organic cotton garments, this move has been used unscrupulously as a token gesture by the fashion industry to appease concerned consumers whilst other, unsustainable manufacturing processes continue unabated.

To buy organic is not enough, and the luxury price affixed to many organic labels makes this choice prohibitive to most. Thankfully many enlightened designers are seeing new opportunities in design and manufacture, working with less thirsty, more sustainable crops such as hemp and bamboo, so we are beginning to see a new wave of fashion design that is beautiful, practical and sustainable.

We must start cleaning up our mess. The heady combination of a visionary leader in the shape of President Obama and the world-shaking global impact of the credit crunch has brought all these problems into sharp focus. Fashion’s mirror is now reflecting back with the demise of the “bling” culture – an outward demonstration of a shift in consciousness.

We have lost our appetite for fakery and now collectively crave authenticity. Rising interest and sales in sustainable fashion, charity shopping and vintage clothing express this new mood. As the credit crunch bites we are forced to face our collective insecurities and “make do and mend.” Lack of money is already creating a host of creative responses as humans begin to re-appraise and reassess. We are finally seeing a correction, albeit not voluntary, in many unsustainable practices.

People power is emerging as a new social trend: witness the rise in popularity of Internet sites like WiserEarth, Kiva and TED, confirming a global desire to positively connect. The basic human quality of free will can be re-activated and revitalised as people learn to shop judiciously and consciously. As we activate intelligent, thoughtful choices, we can positively affect our future. Once we dismiss the illusion of glamour and wake up to the power and delight in having less stuff and more time, we can embrace being more human.

All our systems have simultaneously broken; global capitalism has failed every sector. There is only one area that is thriving, and that is the spiritual. Rather than the gloomy and apocalyptic attitude taken by most of the world’s press, many wise thinkers welcome this global meltdown as a great opportunity to reappraise pretty much all aspects of living and being – including trade, design, and lifestyle. We all have to learn to be human again. It is as if humanity had just emerged from a fifty-year binge: shamefaced and hungover, we now have to look in the eye the true spiritual cost of what we have done.

The credit crunch has come just in the nick of time. This critical global condition calls for all our ingenuity and good sense. Although the core of the fashion industry is still very sick, there are many working within its realms who are enlightened and are taking right action to rebalance the system. It is up to those of us who buy clothes to demand that all our clothing be sustainable by its very nature, and to bring fair trade to the forefront of all manufacture.

At last the possibility of fairness for all, good design and the old-fashioned notion of “built to last” are re-emerging as solutions. Many organisations are addressing the problems directly by working alongside women’s co-operatives in India and Africa that support local families and ancient crafts while producing reasonably priced, well-made products.

Slow fashion is now emerging as a new paradigm as fashion labels such as Some Like It Holy, Ciel, Ray Harris and Katherine Hamnett address these complex issues by producing beautiful hand-crafted clothing with a cradle to cradle life span. Internet retailer Adili is at the forefront of slow fashion, selling products that are “trans-seasonal,” intended to be worn long-term, and made with materials that are organic, recycled and fairly traded. When it comes to fashion, less really is more.

Our challenge is to find a way to resynthesise the extreme polarities of our time: on the one hand we have globalisation and all its negative financial and ethical ramifications, and on the other we have the new consciousness: a One World view. Globalisation has misunderstood and misused this concept for its own ends. We have misinterpreted our connectivity and as a result are more disconnected than ever. Now we have to learn to express ourselves and reconnect with integrity. In the end the true antidote is to adopt an attitude of voluntary simplicity. A manner of living and being that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich. A way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct conscious contact with every part of our lives.

What does a sustainable wardrobe mean to you?

This article is reprinted with the kind permission of Resurgence Magazine.

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  • TheHiSociety

    TheHiSociety said 6 years ago

    Wow, amazing article!

  • aBreathofFrenchair

    aBreathofFrenchair said 6 years ago

    Great food for thought.

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 6 years ago

    You just blew my mind. Thanks, I had to read it twice.

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 6 years ago

    Great post! People think fashion is 'just fashion'. Fashion dictates, as well as reflects our culture, lifestyle, times, etc ..and I for one, can not stand to look at anymore merchandised walls like the first picture! Those walls look like clothing prison to me, and I'm not referring to the stripes.. smart, buy vintage! ..or eco friendly apparel!

  • simbiosisbyjulia

    simbiosisbyjulia said 6 years ago

    Awesome article, and so very true!

  • EverandBliss

    EverandBliss said 6 years ago

    I've definitely lost my passion for fakery - not just in my fashion choices either.

  • weirdwares

    weirdwares said 6 years ago

    Thanks for a very interesting article! Buying second-hand is something I've been doing all my life. Fashion isn't something I really follow, I try to think about my personal style instead. I hope the trend of genuine vintage style continues to grow, for the sake of our planet!

  • MouseTrapVintage

    MouseTrapVintage said 6 years ago

    This was one of the most thoughtful articles I've ever read on Etsy. For all of these reasons, in addition to the fact that I do not have a lot of money to spend and choose to express my individuality through what I wear not only now as an adult, but since I was a child, I predominantly wear vintage and secondhand clothing and decorate my apartment home with vintage and secondhand furnishings. Thank you for this. I plan to read it again when I can give it more time and am not at work.

  • dreamingdevotchka

    dreamingdevotchka said 6 years ago

    I am SO GLAD that this article was written. Can I get an amen? It is true that consumers today are only given the illusion of choice. In reality, we are badgered into all looking the same to satisfy the judgmental eye of the media that we have internalized into a deep self-hatred: a need to "fit in" in order to feel comfortable with ourselves. Charty seamlessly unites multiple issues and isn't afraid to tell it like it is. Very well done! Also, this is THE only article I've read that has had the bravery to look at the credit crunch through a positive lens, using it as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and how we see the fashion industry. It allows us to reinvent ourselves as consumers.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 6 years ago

    I think you really need to wonder why we need so much 'stuff', I've never agreed with the fast fashion approach. I'd rather have good quality long lasting garments that I love and wear again and again. From a buyers point of view clothing is an investment but I think I get a lot of that attitude from my mother who has always bought quality over quantity and 'fashion'. A lot of these brands don't really celebrate the individual, so many times you walk into shops and just think 'this isn't me' and leave.

  • clothscapes

    clothscapes said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article. It is so easy to forget where all our cheap fashion comes from. A great wakeup call.

  • LaTouchables

    LaTouchables said 6 years ago

    Great reading this here. Conformity is the word, and at what price? No one needs fashion. Giving it up can win one time, savings, self-integrity.

  • anotherfeather

    anotherfeather said 6 years ago

    Really wonderfully written and worded. thank you for sharing such a great piece.

  • Feille

    Feille said 6 years ago

    Best article ever. It is infinitely more worth it to buy something well made that will last, and repair and mend what can be salvaged. Pity that it takes a global crisis to bring home all these issues. The influx of cheap, readily available clothing along with the rise of shopping as a popular pastime has eroded us, that is true. Better to be true to one's self and turn off all the constant streaming as to what we should wear, be and feel. Connecting with family and one another is definitely more satisfying than the temporary high that comes from spending our money on another ridiculous item that we don't need, a band-aid for what truly ails us.

  • StephanieRasulo

    StephanieRasulo said 6 years ago

    I couldn't have said it better myself. This topic is very close to my heart. I make clothing and I can't count the number of times that someone has asked me how much I charge for my items and then reacted with disbelief when I told them. I think that most people have gotten used to the idea that clothing should be cheap, but I don't think they realize what goes into making it. I always ask myself, if this shirt is selling for $20 in a retail store, how much could the person who made it really have gotten paid?

  • POUTfits

    POUTfits said 6 years ago


  • thehouseofhemp

    thehouseofhemp said 6 years ago

    but real.

  • littlegoodall

    littlegoodall said 6 years ago

    Thank you for so clearly articulating what many of us with fashion design backgrounds have been feeling for so long, and what has brought many of us to etsy. It does leave lots of room for us to get busy and try to make changes!


    KINGxACE said 6 years ago

    Thanks for the article! There are many other materials that can be used in the garment industry instead of cotton, for instance, flax (linen) is a highly ecological crop, as it uses very little water comparatively, and is highly durable as well, linen textile artifacts found in Egypt date from nearly 2000 years ago!

  • NestnHome

    NestnHome said 6 years ago

    This is the best article that I have read on Etsy. I was raised to make do or do without, and so I learned a lot of skills from my mother. Baking, sewing, re-purposing, and recycling have all come in very handy at different times of my life, (now especially), and I am very proud of the fact that I know how to make things with my own hands. Plus, being able to have something that no one else has, simply because I made it myself, or it was made for me, helps to feed the ego. Isn't that what fashion is really all about, making ourselves feel good?

  • dollybirdboutique

    dollybirdboutique said 6 years ago

    Great article, we need to reduce reuse and recycle. Buy vintage .............

  • poetryforjane

    poetryforjane said 6 years ago

    Well written and well said, Thankyou! I love your article. I get sick thinking about the way the fashion industry has turned in the last 20 yrs. It looks to me vapid and spiritless. Being a rebellious teenager, I rejected it almost 30 years ago and only bought vintage, I saw it as cruel in the 70's when you did not have the Chemin De Fers or Calvin Kleins, I am so glad that I was kicked out of that club!

  • tomatoette

    tomatoette said 6 years ago

    Love it!

  • ALittleSparkle

    ALittleSparkle said 6 years ago

    Very well written article! I agree with your point of view. Things need to change...

  • lisammay

    lisammay said 6 years ago

    Certain aspects of this article really resonated with me. I am not considered beautiful by media standards. And I can't say that it really bothers me all that much. I have no respect for an industry that puts clothing on tiny, skeletel and child-like looking women to convince me that this is true beauty and something to aspire to. My heart breaks for all the people who feel somehow less than okay because they don't look like what is presented in the fashion and media industries.

  • choconaut

    choconaut said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article! No bullshit at all. I'm taking a pledge to myself to only buy vintage and handmade clothing!

  • xZOUix

    xZOUix said 6 years ago

    prevailing customers have no idea......

  • rosebudsvintage

    rosebudsvintage said 6 years ago

    I am happy to be with so many artists that are trying to bring back the values of pride in an item being original and handmade, reused, and repurposed. To not only use our minds but to incorporate our hands and our hearts to save and rethink. Our glutteny has to end and harmony has to surface

  • squid21r

    squid21r said 6 years ago

    This is a fabulous article. The exact reason I would prefer to by my clothing here, on Etsy, as opposed to the mall.

  • PeachyKeenCreations

    PeachyKeenCreations said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article! It really made me think and brought up a lot of good points I never really thought about, encouraging me to reflect on some of my past. Growing up, my older sister lived with our grandparents who had good money and sent her to private school with wealthy children. She also attended dance school with girls whose mothers and fathers were vets, lawyers, surgeons...Well it didn't happen until she hit middle school that the handmade dresses my grandmother used to make her were no longer enough. It became about the label--brand identity. She became so consumed with her outer appearance to fit in with these girls so they wouldn't think she was 'poor'. My mother started this too, even though my little sister and I complained about not wanting clothes from Aeropostle or American Eagle--it wasn't US... Etsy for the most part celebrates individuality. I've found so many beautiful items that are one of a kind, so unique in their creation that they cannot be replicated the exact same way again. Although this has fed into many hours of online leisure shopping and pursuit of 'stuff'. It's very addicting, but at least I can communicate directly with the artist and know that he or she is not slaving over the creation of the product.... okay well MAYBE but it's a labor of love! Like NestnHome said, I am extremely proud of making one of a kind items for myself. It's a great feeling when someone says, "Oh I love your jewelry! Where did you get that?" to be able to say "It's handmade by me."

  • Alaroycreature

    Alaroycreature said 6 years ago

    A sustainable wardrobe to me means Comfortable clothes that makes me feel super good! and that don't rip at touch lol Amazing article! def puts me to think. Thank so much :)

  • PeachyKeenCreations

    PeachyKeenCreations said 6 years ago

    Oh and hopefully this new job I'm trying to get will allow me to start making clothing purchases on etsy! I don't mind dropping more money on clothes I know are going to last, flatter me, and look great! I'm so happy to be able to support independent, homegrown designers.

  • minipotterybyanita

    minipotterybyanita said 6 years ago

    Very interesting and informative article! I have worked in factories in my life, both sewing the products and also inspecting the goods other people made, before finding my true calling--pottery, in 1987. Thankfully, these factories were in the U.S. and were clean, bright and safe. I worked on production, so literally, could only make as much as my hands and abilities allowed me. I'll have to say that I was woefully ignorant of the environmental impact of the very products I was making. I knew nothing of how the cloth was dyed, polluting rivers and streams, even here in America, as I found out later. I wear clothes that others would probably have thrown out years ago. I've never been a "fashion-plate" and it has never bothered me! I've only owned three sofas/couches in 40 years. I guess I must be a "Quaker" at heart, since I "use it up, wear it out, make it do." I was raised poor, on a farm where we were fairly self-sufficient and HAD to "make do." I really appreciate that now, since it taught me that I didn't have to have the latest "bright shiny thing" that came down the pike! We had enough!

  • maybudha

    maybudha said 6 years ago

    amazing article. am sharing via classes and facebook. this is the right approach for etsy!!

  • dezschwartz

    dezschwartz said 6 years ago

    This article was really great. Very well written words on a very important subject matter! My closet is a mixture of both store-bought clothes and thrifted/vintage items. After reading this and realizing some of those statistics that I did not know before, I will definitely be buying more thrifted/vintage and handmade clothing. I plan to share this article with friends as I think that it's important food for thought. Thank you!

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 6 years ago

    Interesting article.

  • tiialin

    tiialin said 6 years ago

    personally i think that outsourcing should be severely restricted, if not banned out right. we have an incredible workforce here in the US, and to ignore that is a waste of valuable resources. if everyone had a fair, the cost of items would be less of an issue. the pursuit of cheap does a lot of harm, from the loss of jobs to foreign (and questionable) factories to choosing harmful chemical bases instead of quality and earth conscience materials to the rising cost of food. it's all connected to the desire for cheap goods, not quality goods. a battle that etsy sellers face every time we list something. how do i compete with cheap?

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 6 years ago

    i am so happy to read this article. finally someone is addressing this issue. i honestly buy all vintage, us made, or sweatshop free everything (not just clothing). it costs me more but i buy less and need less. i rarely talk to someone with the same views and values. people seem to be okay with buying cheap because of the crashing economy. i think people need to see directly who they are affecting and how these giant companies treat their factory employees. it's truly disgusting that humans would let greed take over this much.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Love this article. It reinforces the reuse of our material goods!

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 6 years ago

    Great article! You're right, we are obsessed with our appearence. As a psychologist, I've seen the dangers of this type of obsession. You did a great job addressing it!

  • scientificculture

    scientificculture said 6 years ago

    Awesome article.

  • ZhongFuJewelryDesign

    ZhongFuJewelryDesign said 6 years ago

    This is a great article - something I've been aware of for quite a while. But one trap I've identified for myself: you can still be a glutton for secondhand, vintage or handmade items. It may seem better because you're buying more "eco" conscious but the root of our craving for MORE definitely seems the be the primary concern in my mind.

  • SquidWhaleDesigns

    SquidWhaleDesigns said 6 years ago

    Beautifully written article. As someone who is always disappointed with what is available in stores and increasingly aware of the uglier side of fashion, this article is a well-timed and thoughtful discourse that highlights the individual's need to demand better products. I feel we can strongly correlate this struggle with the ever-growing trends in food production towards local, healthier foods and better, less factory-driven farming ideals. Additionally, as you pointed out the distortion that people have cultivated, increasing cases of things such as eating disorders and a general dissatisfaction with life, I believe another facet of this is fueled by the very public way so many of us live our private lives via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. But in this, there is a great opportunity for influence and change towards the better in that we can use our public profiles to "lead by example", influencing our different social circles towards "voting with their wallets" for handmade or vintage items and socially and environmentally conscious products.

  • KristyLynnJewelry

    KristyLynnJewelry said 6 years ago

    Great article!!

  • TheArthurRoom

    TheArthurRoom said 6 years ago

    "Human identity is now defined by what one owns rather than who one is. Our looks have never been so important – celebrity-obsession and self-obsession reveal a new cultural neurosis." The thing is, this is how it's been for thousands of years. It's nothing new at all. Pick any time and place in history - ancient Rome, the feudal Middle Ages, 19th century Europe - and it's always been more about what you own than who you are. "A glance down any high street in any country in the world will show how conformist and similar we now look." How is this different than the Hellenization of the ancient world under Alexander the Great, or Rome's habit of building the exact same buildings in every city throughout their Empire? If you took a walk around Europe and the Near East two thousand years ago, you would be marveling about how conformist and similar every place looked. It's a good article with valid criticisms, of course, but I think that because the author is a fashion writer - and therefore more intimately steeped in the fashion world - she assumes that this obsession with fashion and "models as rock stars" extends to everyone in the population, which isn't true. Just because TV and the fashion industry glorifies that lifestyle doesn't mean they're representative of the whole. I think we're moving into a time in society's history when people are starting to see through shallow materialism and get back to what's important, except for the rich, who control the media, and therefore people's perceptions of the whole.

  • theroyal

    theroyal said 6 years ago

    long have i been oppressed by the latest trends. no longer. goodbye slap bracelets, goodbye MTV. goodbye twitter, goodbye hula hoops. goodbye silly bands. i break the bonds of your tyrannical rule.. i am FREEEEEEEEEEEE

  • kaylam95

    kaylam95 said 6 years ago

    This was a well written artical i loved it!

  • TheWeirdGirlWorkshop

    TheWeirdGirlWorkshop said 6 years ago

    Wow. Amazing writing. Never knew that hemp & bamboo need less water then cotton. I never stopped to think about it before.

  • OwlsForever

    OwlsForever said 6 years ago

    i thot this said the tranny of trends

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 6 years ago

    Very insightful article on the fashion industry. I think the problem with fast fashion is that it gives consumers the illusion that they are getting a deal with low cost goods, but they are in fact not, as fast fashion clothing is poorly tailored and designed so all the new colors and styles satisfies the buyer only in the short term, before they buy something else that looks 'new' on their next trip to the mall. For people who grew up in a world where all they know is fast fashion, its hard to instill appreciation for the perfectly tailored piece.

  • Hilliker

    Hilliker said 6 years ago

    I applaud your article, and I think you shed some light on a few interesting things, such as child-labor, unfair wages, working conditions, etc. Those are things people definitely need to be more aware of when they shop and get their fashion "fix." But I think you make a few sweeping proclamations that didn't really ring true. For example, human beings have cared about their appearances for quite some time - this isn't a new development. I don't think fast fashion has really exacerbated that. Even in the 20s, up until now, fashion and appearance has been mega important (to women especially). How else do you explain corsets and boning?? Yikes. If anything, fast fashion has had the same effect on us as the internet has - we get everything fast, and it's disposable. Immediate gratification, and quality is compromised. And it's cheap. One more thing I found interesting: "Thirty years ago divorce, pornography, underage sex, drug addiction and teenage suicide were rare." I am no expert, and I do not have stats right here in front of me, but I do not think that all of these things were "rare" in those days. I'm sure plenty of people in the early eighties were doing drugs (hello, cocaine), having sex, watching porn and the like. Perhaps divorce was less common. But dubbing these things "rare" is a little silly. But I agree with so many things - we should be focusing on fair wages and good conditions on the job, and we should appreciate craftsmanship,

  • WindyKnollFarms

    WindyKnollFarms said 6 years ago

    Thanks for this!

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 6 years ago

    An amazing article to read! It has so much in it and I think it would be good to read it again! We are definitely at a turning point for change!

  • nluker

    nluker said 6 years ago

    I agree with the importance of improving working conditions for garment workers, appreciating craftsmanship and being mindful of the environment in all of our purchasing choices, but a lot of your observations just don't ring true for me. I agree with Hilliker in those points she brought up, and further, If I look down my street, I see a variety of fashion choices on people's backs, indeed I feel that there is much more variety now than there was in for instance the 60s and 70s (decades I lived through.) I do agree with you that it is important to focus more on the spiritual than the material, but the way to get there is not to forswear all material --- holy men have been failing at that for far longer than the time periods you refer to. if nothing else, you obviously have started a dialog, and that is a good thing.

  • marysgranddaughter

    marysgranddaughter said 6 years ago

    Bravo! Fantastic article!!

  • funkomavintage

    funkomavintage said 6 years ago

    The answer has always been..... to buy or make Quality....and it will last a long long time. Repair, re-use, and love it till it wears out. In the last 40 years, especially, people have been trained to be greedy, short-sighted, and shallow.....and we can be untrained ! This was the message from all the Back to the Land movements and the Simple living awareness all thru human history......and yeah, flower children....

  • MielesGems

    MielesGems said 6 years ago

    Kudos for bringing this to attention!!!

  • AmbieandAshiesArt

    AmbieandAshiesArt said 6 years ago

    wow! This is such a good article.

  • vKnit

    vKnit said 6 years ago

    Brilliantly well said! :) An excellent book I have which explores this is: "Eco-chic the Fashion Paradox" by Sandy Black.

  • PaisleyPeaFabrics

    PaisleyPeaFabrics said 6 years ago

    This article is dead on. It should earn a permanent place on Etsy's front page.

  • Mpm01

    Mpm01 said 6 years ago

    Thank you very much: it's wonderfull to meet my inner feelings and thoughtfullness in a brilliant article!

  • lenamiller

    lenamiller said 6 years ago

    Your article is brilliant. It is one of the best I read on Etsy. You reported the facts that make people aware of the dirty side of fashion: such as miserable wages and working conditions and child-labor. People obsession with shopping and style has made many of them fashion slaves. They are obsessed with brand identity and their looks. The most disturbing part is that our young generation is very consumed with their outer appearance. The looks are becoming more important than who they actually are.

  • ovejanegra

    ovejanegra said 6 years ago

    Fantastic article!!!

  • peoplescouture

    peoplescouture said 6 years ago

    this is the most serious article published on etsy so far. bravo! i would like etsy to explore this subject even more in depth and take a strong stand for the cause. i would like to go even further; why not, all of us boycott corporate fashion in all its manifestations? do it for the mother earth, do it for yourself, do it for our children! in no way do you have to give up fashion and style but by choice, take it to another, more conscious and wholesome level. break away from the tyranny of corporate fashion!

  • ChrissiesRibbons

    ChrissiesRibbons said 6 years ago

    A fantastic article. Thank you

  • whateverworks

    whateverworks said 6 years ago

    Wow, that was amazing. I hope that this information reaches a wide audience, not just us crafty people. I wrote a paper about sustainable fashion for a class last year. I wish I had this as one of my references! Thanks for making it available to us.

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign said 6 years ago

    Thanks for an informative article. A sustainable wardrobe has just what we need. That is hard to do in a world of having what we want.

  • 2tee

    2tee said 6 years ago

    All the reasons, and more, why I opened my store. The thought that my child could be wearing clothes made by other children is horrible! She is too innocent to wear this burden. Thanks for acknowledging these issues.

  • betsybensen

    betsybensen said 6 years ago

    excellent article, thank you. I buy all of my clothes resale, and have for years. To save money, yes, but also to not look like everyone else on the street. We have so many options, just need to make the decision to hop off the merry-go-round.

  • LeatherheadOriginals

    LeatherheadOriginals said 6 years ago

    This article is after my heart! I will have to come back later and read the longer comments! This so- called fashion can be the bane of my existance, being a self- taught hat designer/ maker!

  • dTrespa

    dTrespa said 6 years ago

    Great insight!! I truly appreciate your insight and time in writing the article. Peace, blessings and encouragement to you!

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 6 years ago

    This article was really great. Thanks so much !

  • iktomi

    iktomi said 6 years ago

    Fantastic article! I grew up in a household with not much money, and my mother, with her european post-war frugalism, never let us fall too far into the conspicuous consumption trap. I find myself looking back with fondness on our home made clothes and do it yourself mentality. It's such a validation of her philosophy that so many people now are following the same ideas.

  • bigapplegrafix

    bigapplegrafix said 6 years ago

    AHHHHHHHHHHH amazing article, it hit like 10 million nails on the head at once..

  • Breannabrutality

    Breannabrutality said 6 years ago

    i cant get enough of this ! this article is FANTASTIC. mind blowing, motivational, and inspirational <3

  • MarieAnnette

    MarieAnnette said 6 years ago

    I admit that I am lulled by all the latest fashions. And I am the first to admit that I love shopping. But, I keep a mental picture of a sea turtle trying to eat a plastic bag because he thinks it's a jellyfish close at hand, and I stop myself from buying another shirt that I don't need in a color that I already have. I don't want to be selfish and materialistic when there are others struggling just to survive. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good, but, everything in moderation. Fantastic and well written article, it vocalised what I have long felt about our conspicuous consumption.

  • ChristianaBl

    ChristianaBl said 6 years ago


  • nadinessra

    nadinessra said 6 years ago

    Thank you for this article.

  • OrbitingDebris

    OrbitingDebris said 6 years ago

    Thanks for this great article. I'm especially glad to see the issue of "choice" brought up. I buy nearly everything second hand, but on those rare occasions when I must buy something new, I'm always frustrated to be confronted with hundreds of nearly identical items that are not what I wish to purchase. It's a trend I've noticed for years, but it's definitely getting worse. Several years ago, I went to JC Penny to buy a dress. Surprisingly, they didn't have any dresses in stock, not a single one. When I inquired about this very obvious gap in their inventory, I was told that separates were what was "in" that season, so they weren't carrying any dresses - no one was buying them. (How can anyone buy something they don't have in stock???) When my eyeglass frames broke unexpectedly a few weeks ago, I was amazed I could not find a pair of new frames that were not rectangular. I browsed literally hundreds of frames, both in person and online. It seems so obvious that no one frame shape will look good on every face, but when I mentioned the lack of choice of styles to the salespeople, it was as though they had never noticed what they were selling! I am increasingly alarmed at how unperceived this lack of choice parading as choice is. It's bizarre, and absurdly circular - we are offered only one choice, and then when that is what we buy, we are told that must be what we want because we bought it, so that is what we're offered. ("I guess rectangular frames are just what everyone is wearing now," I was told, as though there were any other choice available.) Who is making these decisions for us, and why doesn't anyone notice or care? Sometimes it feels like we're living in a dystopian novel.

  • VintageByBecca

    VintageByBecca said 6 years ago

    this perfectly expresses my thoughts on fast fashion. i hate it, especially after working with it for 10 years. why must we all look the same, drive the same car, and live in cookie-cutter houses in lookalike subdivisions??

  • VintageByBecca

    VintageByBecca said 6 years ago

    This video really ties in with the rise of fast fashion, perceived obsolesence, and our culture's ridiculous consumerism:

  • VintageByBecca

    VintageByBecca said 6 years ago don't want to watch the video? read it, then. :)

  • littleprintsdiaperco

    littleprintsdiaperco said 6 years ago

    what an incredible, thought provoking and beautiful piece. Thank you so much. I love my second hand thrift store clothing!

  • twinklelittlestarr

    twinklelittlestarr said 6 years ago

    Very insightful article & I have to agree with the other readers...second hand thrift stores all the way <3

  • theindiecollective

    theindiecollective said 6 years ago

    completely awesome and to the point article, thank you charty and etsy. to me, the first rule of sustainability is, to do no harm, second is, hold those responsible who do harm, a far cry from what is really going on at the moment. but the good thing is, we, the people, are actually, super-powerful. if we choose, we can change everything we don't like.

  • EcoJr

    EcoJr said 6 years ago

    It is so refreshing to read an article like this. Sustainable fibers are (or should be) the way of the NOW and the future. I hope more and more people feel empowered to make the RIGHT decision to choose sustainable fibers / clothing; vintage and; up-cycled articles. Thank you! Eco Jr.

  • Spookiesque

    Spookiesque said 6 years ago

    Thank you so much for writing that thought-provoking article.

  • ShoeClipsOnly

    ShoeClipsOnly said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article! I love to recycle my clothes, maybe cut something shorter or add some lace here or there. Its amazing what you can do with an old pair of jeans or an old bridemaids dress you dont wear anymore. I loved this article, very well written and though provoking!

  • LoloLiz

    LoloLiz said 6 years ago

    Incredible article written beautifully. I honestly had tears in my eyes because it is so true. I often find myself trying to keep up with countless fashion bloggers and for what? I honestly believe that living a happy lifestyle means one in which you enrich others lives and we are certainly doing just the opposite. I hope that I can move closer to a movement on my blog for buying vintage not only for the sport of thrifting and the hunt for adorable clothing but to also live a little bit more modestly and in a way contribute. Thank you!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 6 years ago

    I have to admit, I wear my clothes till they practically fall off my back, then cut them up into dusters to use till they totally disintegrate! You can do that with clothes made from natural fibres. The only items I buy new are underwear & shoes, virtually everything else is second hand from thrift shops. But even I have a wardrobe full of stuff I never wear. When you think about it, how much of the stuff in your closets gets to see daylight on a regular basis? And if you didn't wear it last summer, do you really need it this summer? I try to ask myself questions like that on a regular basis, then donate unworn/unwanted items to thrift shops. The fashion industry helps to make people crazy & I've never bought into it. There's never anything "fashionable" that would look right on me, whatever the fashion at the time!

  • TheLotusRoot

    TheLotusRoot said 6 years ago

    wonderful article!

  • Tiffabulous

    Tiffabulous said 6 years ago

    LOVE this article. Kind of reminds me of the "Pretties" books.

  • nerdycraftgirl

    nerdycraftgirl said 6 years ago

    And now for Nerdycraftgirl's disparate thoughts on the matter... 1. The ladies in my local knitting shop have informed me that wool and cotton prices, cotton in particular, will be going through the roof this fall due to drought. Hopefully the stage will be cleared for less water consuming crops such as hemp and linen. 2. Cascade 220 and Blue Sky Organic cottons are two of my favorite yarns, both from the highlands of Peru. I wonder what this means in terms of labor. Technically, shouldn't organic be more labor intensive? But organic agriculture is better in the long term in costs of health, land, worker's pride ... 3. Okay, I admit it, I'm a yarn fiend. I'm guilty of the shopping craze myself, but only with yarn. I actually don't like trying on clothes (takes too long!) 4. Just wondering, but how does acrylic relate to this? Acrylic is basically plastic spun into yarn, and I envision acrylic as being made in pretty science labs as opposed to cotton being raised by poor farmers and turned into clothing by poor factory workers. And shouldn't wool be water intensive due to the needs of the living animal? But with sheep the animal can also be used for meat or milk as well, and sheep can eat grass and thus do not compete with the food supplies of people. Lovely bit of rhetorec there, Charty. Thanks.

  • abenne27

    abenne27 said 6 years ago

    This was an amazing article, echoing an internal struggle within myself as a recent fashion school graduate. Time to change the world and bring back truly unique fashion instead of mass produced stuff. Thank you so much.

  • MadisonStreetBeauty

    MadisonStreetBeauty said 6 years ago

    good article!

  • OceansideCastle

    OceansideCastle said 6 years ago

    Just the thought of going to a mall to shop is nauseating! The global economics and growing eco-consciousness, (especially in young adults who will be leading this country very soon) may be the catalyst that fans the flames of change. Feeding the consuming beasts with throw away make it to break sweat shop toxic products until we are too satiated to care isn't working anymore. Personally, I made a decision years ago that whenever possible, I would patronize small local businesses. Most often, the costs were a bit more but the long term benefits for all on so many levels far out weighed this expense. If an item is marked 'Made in the USA' it is most likely vintage! Factory and mill jobs would look pretty good to lots of unemployed Americans right now. You articulated the many layers and emotions of this human condition quite eloquently. I was fascinated by the scope of your knowledge. Very enlightening; flicker of the flame.... Bravo.

  • sohomode

    sohomode said 6 years ago

    Brilliant !

  • mariathompson9

    mariathompson9 said 6 years ago

    This is an excellent view on such an interesting subject!! Welldone, great article!!

  • EnglishShop

    EnglishShop said 6 years ago

    I need to leave my house - it's an emergency - what do I take? For sure only items with personal value, an old clock from the 60's that I love because of it's shape, a handmade handbag, a tattered book from my teens.

  • foundling

    foundling said 6 years ago

    wow. thank you!

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy said 6 years ago

    poignant article - so true. the internet and social networks that ride on is the de facto new industrialization, one so many of internet supporters (dawn of a new era) eschew. if people are constantly looking over their shoulder and around for what's the lastest thing, there's not going to be much self-reflection nor self-development (those almost always involve some solitude/alone time. things become much more knee jerk. this is reflected so well in your article, "I believe that we are in one of the most conventional historical periods of all time. A glance down any high street in any country in the world will show how conformist and similar we now look. "

  • sasprilla

    sasprilla said 6 years ago

    Great article, as one that has fallen to some labels, it used to be that their quality was actually better. But no more is that aways true. I am so tired of the throw away culture and try not to buy anything anymore that will not last (not always easy). I am no seamstress, but do sew a bit and often find my things holding up longer than even more expensive (note supposedly quality) store brand items. Makes you wonder if we are all getting ready to wake up from this "high school" mentality of fitting some norm to be in, or following all us former geeks and outcasts, with truly embracing the diversity within each of us. We can only hope, dream and be part of this in the way we live, sell and buy. Thanks for the food for thought for the day.

  • artfields

    artfields said 6 years ago

    This was an amazingly written, insightful article. I wish it could be spread around so that more people could read it. It's about time that people realized what is truly meaningful and what is just shallow and harmful.

  • locolace

    locolace said 6 years ago

    Your article is so enlightening, and what we all need to hear. I look in my own closet and wonder why I have and keep all this stuff. I know I would be so much happier, and life would be so much easier if I had less stuff to take care of and organize. Clothing,especially, is so disposable to us because it is so cheap. I can shop at yard sales and get new clothes with the tags still on for $1. Thanks for you insight on this topic. I will be sure to pass this along! I hope everyone who sees this starts to make changes today.

  • SNoU

    SNoU said 6 years ago

    FANTASTIC, much needed article...

  • L2Country

    L2Country said 6 years ago

    I so enjoyed this thoughtful article. Txs for presenting this to us! L2

  • kerilaine

    kerilaine said 6 years ago

    What a wonderful article! Thanks so much for writing this. It has come across my desk at the perfect moment. "We all have to learn to be human again." I love this statement. I feel it in every fiber of my being as I think about how I want to raise my children and the values I want to instill in my daughter, in particular. We have slipped into this unrelenting focus on self image instead of character and compassion. My grandmother's advice is to do something nice for someone else when you feel lousy or blue. It is never to go shopping. Sadly I haven't always followed her wise counsel, but she is so right and her life which is overflowing with love and family is a beautiful testament to how perfectly her philosophy works. It's definitely time to shift focus.

  • JennasRedRhino

    JennasRedRhino said 6 years ago

    Etsy has now become my source of news. After seeing the recent Treasuries, I assume it must be Shark Week on the Discovery Channel again.

  • masonke

    masonke said 6 years ago

    Wow! Thanks for the amazing insight. I wish the world would read this article, and make some collaborative change. It needs to happen.

  • masonke

    masonke said 6 years ago

    Wow! Thanks for the insight. We as a world need to make some collaborative change, I'll do my part.

  • KristyLynnJewelry

    KristyLynnJewelry said 6 years ago

    Great article, so true! Thanks for sharing!!

  • Marumadrid

    Marumadrid said 6 years ago

    What does a sustainable wardrobe mean to me? Wearing my clothes to the max, selling to thrift shops or Ebay the garments I'm not using... and buying basics, because they never will be "so past season" :)

  • RitualBath

    RitualBath said 6 years ago

    We were just talking about this last night! How timely. For me (someone who sews) a sustainable wardrobe is key pieces that are well constructed by myself or a trusted manufacturer that can last for years and look timely by the accessories I add. Then when the garment is past it's acceptable wear, it gets donated for another person to love or cut up for a new use.

  • emkay47

    emkay47 said 6 years ago

    I find it interesting that this article is postd on Etsy - preaching to the choir, no? When I was in university (10 years ago), when Naomi Klein's book 'No Logo' came out, we talked a lot about this issue. What didn't resonate well with me then is stil the same today - all problem, no solution and on a grand scale. I want to read that yes, there are serious consequences to what's going on behind the scenes, but that there are things that I, we, are doing that help. Like shopping local,handmade Etsy-like. Talking only issues and no solutions is not inspiring, it's exhausting. But like my prof in uni would say 'pessimism of the mind, optimism of the soul'.

  • Ayamilein

    Ayamilein said 6 years ago

    It's simple. Don't go with the flow. Don't be a fish, swimming with the stream. Be yourself, find yourself and stay true to yourself. I have never been a 'fashion victim' and I will never be. Not because I am a super strong personality - I am always struggling with that. Not because I am some sort of rebel. But because I always think for myself. It is everybody's choice! Distance yourself from the trends, don't even follow them. Wear, what you like, what defines you, what mirrors your personality, what makes you feel good. I have no clue, what is hip and trendy, what the stars wear and what's 'in' next season. And it doesn't concern me. I have never had any interest in that kind of stuff. What I wear is an extension of who I am inside and that's something no fashion trend can dictate me...because they don't know, who I am :) Great article. People really have to wake up. Even though I believe, here on Etsy, you are 'preaching to the choir' ;) People who should read this to make positive changes in their lives are probably more outside this community. I hope you can still reach them :)

  • Ayamilein

    Ayamilein said 6 years ago

    Edit: XD stole my words!

  • deirdremcgeheedesign

    deirdremcgeheedesign said 6 years ago

    I've been living this for years. So glad that people like you can write about it so beautifully. Keep it up and Lets keep inspiring originality instead of trying to copy someone else. We have all the resources we need. Let just look around and rethink and reuse. And stop being so GREEDY! Don't buy things for the wrong reason.

  • EmmaLamb

    EmmaLamb said 6 years ago

    Incredible article... ! It is all there in black and white... I just wish those that have the power to make a swift and decisive change for the better were paying attention... or were even able to care! Thank you for posting this, Emma, x

  • beetleandquill

    beetleandquill said 6 years ago

    Fantastic article! I would just like to add that bamboo is a resource people assume is clean and renewable and good for the earth- but sustainable practices must be coupled with it and right now, that continues to be an issue. The clear cutting of bamboo in China is still a major issue that is contributing to the extinction of many creatures, most notably the Panda. While bamboo grows fairly quickly, sustainable practices are not being observed, companies continue to harvest bamboo at a faster rate than it is able to grow back and maintain its place in the eco system.

  • jessyeager

    jessyeager said 6 years ago

    Amazing article! Slow fashion is a beautiful thought, built to last. Check out this competition on Yoxi about "Trimming the Waste of Fashion."


    SISTERBATIK said 6 years ago

    It is always great to find a really well written and thoughtful piece on a subject that can feel uncomfortable. Fashion and what we don't see; from the sweatshops and labouring underclass in far off countries, to airbrushed and unreal fashion faces that we pretend not to adore in advertisments and editorials. I found your paragraph on "affluenza" particularly potent, considering the huge financial crises that affect the everyday livelihood of so many around the world, and yet simultaneously the existence of the super rich. How will the world re-balance itself? By handmaking and "slow" manufacturing are we sufficiently scaled to create a new momentum?

  • spellwell

    spellwell said 6 years ago

    These posts seem to rarely go for longer than four paragraphs, thanks for the great read.

  • devilmaywear

    devilmaywear said 6 years ago

    I just wanted to express my appreciation for this article. Thank you for being so thoughtful and sharing.

  • onelittlebirdstudio

    onelittlebirdstudio said 6 years ago

    I read this just as I am about to iron my 10 year old skirt - I could not agree more with this fascinating and brave article! All kudos to Charty!

  • craftaria

    craftaria said 6 years ago

    Fantastic article! This is one of my goals. To be more sustainable.

  • ThoroughlyModernMimi

    ThoroughlyModernMimi said 6 years ago

    Powerful food for thought!

  • thecoralboutique

    thecoralboutique said 6 years ago

    Wow is right! This is an amazing article! Thank you so much for sharing and reminding us all of the truth, and what it's all worth... If a goal in writing this article is to open someone's eyes and remind people of where they should be in this life.. well done. You've affected me today. Thank you sincerely. -Kristy :)

  • sweetrocket99

    sweetrocket99 said 6 years ago

    The tyranny of fashion is such a perfect title to a superbly, timely article. I begun to worry more and more about our next generation and their obsession with superficial things. Though I am a fashion retailer, I would never advocate for women spending riduclous amounts of money on shoes, bags and clothes. I often think back to the Sex and the City episode where Carrie finally wants to buy her own house and have some independance but realized she was broke and had no money. Where had all her money gone? Shoes. Enough to buy a down payment on her house. Somehow it is still de rigueur to amass a huge shoe collection-most of which are rarely worn. I hope more women learn to shop wisely and buy affordable recycled and vintage fashions before purchasing a new, trendy item that is high priced, not well made and certain to be out of fashion within the next 6 monthes.

  • SandraEterovic

    SandraEterovic said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article, thank you Charty. I worked in the fashion industry as a surface designer for fifteen years. The waste and speed of trend cycles became so rapid and out of control that I had to jump off: like a bad amusement park ride. I am now surviving by making a variety of my own artwork, illustration and some handmade clothing items that are designed to be cherished for years. Most of my clothing is vintage or home made. Being dressed in something special and unique feels much better than worrying about looking "in".

  • starletvintage

    starletvintage said 6 years ago

    I applaud you Charty Durrant for this extremely thorough, well-written article ! Awareness is the first step to change and you managed to bring many complex, yet related issues together for our attention. Thank you for this important message and for providing an equally important hopeful, powerful, and individualistic alternative !

  • peaseblossomstudio

    peaseblossomstudio said 6 years ago

    It is my fondest wish that people concentrate on being stylish and not on fashion trends. There's a reason for the term "fashion victim". If one is running around in this year's trend that will look dated by next year, they need to rethink their wardrobe choices. If one buys fewer clothes, but more classic ones, they will always be dressed appropriately. This having to jump on a trend just because it's there always makes one look less well dressed. This is where the demand for cheaply made clothes comes in--everyone wants what's "in" without considering the true cost--where it's made, how are the workers treated, if the garment is $20.00, how much of that might the worker actually see? About prices--things that are stylish are always a good value. The fashion trend of the moment is rarely a good value. Lastly, I want to say that Louis Vuitton IS NOT an example of "trendy tyranny". Their bags, while high priced, are made one at a time by master craftsmen. They are an example of sustainable style because they will last for a very long time.

  • BodamerStudio

    BodamerStudio said 6 years ago

    Good article... I think it's always important to look at our choices and to make sure we are living the as authentically as we can without caving into the pressure of outside established expectations that may be damaging to ourselves and others.

  • ArtfulHummingbird

    ArtfulHummingbird said 6 years ago

    Yes, yes, yes! I will have to read each and every one of the thoughtful responses to this article. I am so aware of how many products in the US are made in China. Try to go for one month just buying items made in your very own country - it is astonishingly difficult. With regard to the "...make do" concept: Recently I remembered my grandmother's "darning egg" - which one used to mend socks. This made me think about when, for instance, I found a tear in my duvet cover. After my initial instinct of well, I'll just toss it and get a new one, I thought - WTF is wrong with me? Just get out the needle and thread. Sheesh. Talk about merchandising brainwashing in action... Thank you again for this article. So timely.

  • AdariaMoonlight

    AdariaMoonlight said 6 years ago

    I'll admit, I fall prey to "fast fashion" more often than I would like to.. but at the same time, I don't buy articles that I can't see my self wearing for years to come. The only time I really followed trends and wanted to be "Cool" and "Fit in" was when I was in grade 4. I spent years after that trying to find my self again. Now, I am learning to design and sew my own clothes, or re-modeling finds from thrift stores. And will literally spend YEARS looking for the perfect item (Like my wool winter coat) choosing not to settle for less than -exactly- what I want, knowing it's an investment I will get years and years of use out of.

  • tuto

    tuto said 6 years ago

    Great article!!! I will share it with all of my friends.

  • MapleCreekShop

    MapleCreekShop said 6 years ago

    This is a very well written and researched article. Wonderful.

  • JewelsandCrafts

    JewelsandCrafts said 6 years ago

    Well-written article. I hope we'll be seeing a book in the works! I love the line: "we have lost our appetite for fakery and now collectively crave authenticity." So true!

  • LNBjams

    LNBjams said 6 years ago

    While this article raises some really important issues, I cannot get past the hypocrisy of it being posted on etsy. What is REALLY interesting about this article being featured on here and commented on by a bunch of die-hard etsy followers is that Etsy is undoubtedly THE MOST diluted "HANDMADE" marketplace on the internet today. And make no mistake, I respect it's value, networking capabilities, it's usefulness for my work and the attention it has brought to TRUE handmakers. BUT let's be honest, it takes innumerable clicks on the "next page" button (in any given category/medium) to find works on here that are ACTUALLY hand made start to finish without use of prefab, sweatshop-made wholesale components. There are literally thousands of etsy "jewelers" listing an obscene amount of bracelets and necklaces that are made out of charms or pendants manufactured in a factory in china and then looped on chains made in a factory in taiwan. Does this M/O strike anyone else as completely identical to that of the geniuses behind Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters? What about the designers who use etsy as a selling platform for clothing they have designed but choose to have outsourced and constructed in factories in order to minimize cost/labor/overhead? Said vendors then list and sell these pieces as "handmade" "artisan" or "sustainably crafted." What's more...said goods are sold for prices SO SO low that the REAL handmakers and crafts-people can't compete. They/we are forced to undercut our prices to remain even remotely competitive with sellers who are the equivalent of the H&Ms of the etsy marketplace. Thus perpetuating our unfortunate culture of cheap. Am I the only person who feels in some part that Etsy has largely turned into another instigator of the fast-fashion-culture described in this article? HERE, etsy shoppers can buy with some false "peace of conscience" that they are supporting the sustainable, handmade and artisan. In reality, the VAST majority of goods listed on etsy look JUST LIKE and usually are of the same quality as something you could find at an H&M, Forever 21 or like. Etsy is on the same six week seasonal cycle that this article condemns. And actually, the cycle seems to be even SHORTER here. The life cycle of a trend seems to be a month at most because any given trend-following item created is available the second the listing goes live. And just MOMENTS later, that same listing is BURIED under a mountain of other unoriginal, fast fashion inspired trends. The bastardization of the term and tradition of "handmade" continues as we loosen our criteria and fail to jury works that we currently qualify as handmade.

  • lucidheart

    lucidheart said 6 years ago

    Well said. Great perspective here.

  • SoulRole

    SoulRole said 6 years ago

    YES!!!Mahalo Etsy for sharing this insightful & deep article.The author really hit on so many important points and I agree wholeheartedly.Fast fashion is a serious problem on so many levels.As an apparel creatress,I often feel as though I need to give up because the stress of having to compete with "perfect" and cheap clothing can be too much.People need to wake up to the cold realities you have laid out so clearly here and make some serious choices in life.we need to stop being selfish consumers and quickly begin to consider makeing major changes in our lifestyle before it is too late,if it isn't already. My only objection is concerning bamboo.In addition to the companies who clear cut and all the ramifications that come with that,highly toxic checmicals are used to convert the raw material into a workable fiber.I take serious issue with those who claim bamboo is an earth friendly fabric-it is not unfortunately.There is a mechanical process that can be used but for the most part it is too costly to manufacture.

  • jenniejune

    jenniejune said 6 years ago

    Thank you for this article!! It can be challenging for the average consumer to navigate what really is a sustainable choice in the fashion industry (and in other industries) and what is simply green washing. Its inspiring to hear that more and more companies are actually stepping up in this important issue! My dream is to see hemp and bamboo products to replace cotton! It has been long known how sustainable, versatile, and sturdy hemp is, but its sad to see how hemp has been virtually ignored because of the stigma attached to its female counterpart. Hemp for Victory! I love this excerpt from the article: "many wise thinkers welcome this global meltdown as a great opportunity to reappraise pretty much all aspects of living and being – including trade, design, and lifestyle. We all have to learn to be human again." So true! Let's make something beautiful from this mess!

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 6 years ago

    My girlfriends and I did a 6 month minimal fashion challenge. We chose 3 outfits and 2 jackets. We also limited our sleep ware to 3 tops and 3 bottoms. We wore ONLY what we had chosen for 6 months. We all agreed that it helped to define our true personal style, got our creative juices flowing and weaned us from fashion over consumerism. Now we are doing a 1 year challenge, where we are allowed to increase our wardrobe by 3 outfits, however they all must be purchased "used". Fun and FREEING!

  • jenniejune

    jenniejune said 6 years ago

    SoulRole, thanks for mentioning those issues with bamboo! LNBjams, I understand your frustration - particularly in the area of jewellery. It can be really hard to weed through all of the hand-strung jewellery to locate the actual hand-fabricated pieces, which are more purely artisan or handmade. I think its important for the buyer to do a little research into the shop or seller if they deem these things important. I know I do!

  • dementedsnowflake

    dementedsnowflake said 6 years ago

    I firmly believe in the ideals that this article states. We are too much a "consumerist" society and it is nice to see that handmade, innovation, and thrift are making a comeback. If everyone lived by these consumer ethics, than the world would be a much better place. Handmade will always be more interesting and sustainable than mass produced product.

  • EcoFoto

    EcoFoto said 6 years ago

    Great article, people are so out of touch with our impact on the environment and eachother! The way we live is incredibly selfish and superficial!

  • tiemee

    tiemee said 6 years ago


  • janeyclothing

    janeyclothing said 6 years ago

    Thank you for posting this article, I feel wholly disillusioned by the fashion industry. I had my own concession in Topshop for 3 years, where I sold my own products that were handmade. It became increasingly frustrating as I could not keep up with the manufacturing and ridiculous sales targets. And also competing with intsore product that was beautifully made, incredibly cheap, and constantly replenished with a slew of new product daily. I feel they have concessions to make it seem like they are supporting local designers. But the reality is that after 3 or 4 years you burn out,it is not realistically sustainable. The only way to succeed is to start to use their business model. Get your own designs cheaply made abroad. Or to just go yourself to asian wholesalers, pick the products you like, sew your own tag on them,and hope none of the other "designers" picked the same product! But do most people care? I have been ranting on for years about fair trade and environmentally friendly fabrics. People agree, but when it comes to putting your money where you mouth is, its hard to change the habit of a lifetime. Even if you wanted to, there is no guarantee that the product you buy is what is says it is. And although I love etsy, for most people, a handmade purchase is the exception rather than the rule. The only way this can change is for the big players to be forced to become more responsible. And as stated above, this will not happen until people become more discerning. Having less money in your pocket definitely focuses the mind. However, even with recession here in Ireland, where we are in the middle of economic meltdown, Penneys (Primark) is one of the few retailers with increasing sales figures season after season. We need to make informed decisions about the products we choose to buy. But until it becomes as easy to buy an ethical product as opposed to an unethical product, it will not be the mainstream option. We still have a long way to go! We need more conversations like this one. I am still working through surplus fabric I bought back then in bulk.The advice from my "mentor" was to throw it into landfill and buy more fabric!

  • ScrapunzelPixie

    ScrapunzelPixie said 6 years ago

    "We need to make informed decisions about the products we choose to buy. But until it becomes as easy to buy an ethical product as opposed to an unethical product, it will not be the mainstream option". @janeyclothing I couldn't agree more!

  • EllieZaitseva

    EllieZaitseva said 6 years ago

    Until we get rid of the money system, abolish capitalism and live for needs more so than wants, nothing will change. We will destroy everything with our greed.

  • MetroGypsy

    MetroGypsy said 6 years ago

    Fascinating ready Charty! Thank you for posting!

  • jill2day

    jill2day said 6 years ago

    Great article. I have posted a few like this on my FB page, and will post this as well. In the meantime, I will continue to only buy my supplies from charity-based shops, and only use reclaimed fabrics to make my garments. However, as I shop for my supplies I am very dismayed at the tons (literally) of shoddy- but one season old - clothing that is in the resale shops. Much of it can not be reused because the quality of the fabric is so poor. It was made to be purchased and thrown away - barely strong enough to survive a washing.

  • TheCOBShop

    TheCOBShop said 6 years ago

    Wonderful article. You hit on a lot of the reasons why I do what I do. It's sometimes frustrating for me to see items comparable to mine being sold (even on Etsy) for a fraction of the price, but I like to think that the people who have purchased from me realize that not only are they getting a thoughtfully-made product but the person who made it is getting a fair wage for their work as well.

  • stylebuggy

    stylebuggy said 6 years ago

    great article! in a time where social media is a dominant force in the lives of people globally, where pop culture is a heavy influence on people's decisions, it's nice to see that there are those who choose to remain true to themselves and to the planet. :) and I agree, this should be a permanent link/fixture on etsy's front page!

  • DutchTouchBeads

    DutchTouchBeads said 6 years ago

    incredible and timely article.

  • amysoldschool

    amysoldschool said 6 years ago

    Wow! Very interesting! I think one additional problem that relates to this is advertising directed toward children. When we were kids we didn't get into fashion until 6th grade or so. If advertising were not allowed toward children our it would greatly change our consumer culture. I think that would be one more piece to the solution.

  • SmallBambino

    SmallBambino said 6 years ago

    When so much pressure is placed on women by the media to exhaust our financial resources on clothes and other beauty products, it is a wonderful reminder that the real guilt should be felt during mindless shopping sprees. Brilliant article! :)

  • KateHeidi

    KateHeidi said 6 years ago

    I really reccomend the book "To Die For, is fashion wearing out the world?" by Lucy Seigle, it looks at all sorts of issues including what actually happens to your clothes when you "give" them to charity (you'll be surprised) :(, why a lot of "organic cotton" is not so eco as you would like and these "eco lines" high street stores bring out is just a marketing technique. It also explain what "Up cycling" really is and how the term is often misused. I would never buy something I didn't really love just because it was a massive trend, other people should learn this too. Not saying I'm perfect, but like most of Etsy, I love redoing clothes and updating them myself and making my own! Its much more fun and the feeling you have made something yourself is much better then a short rush from fast fashion!

  • iKristinBriana

    iKristinBriana said 6 years ago

    Wow. I'm pretty sure this article holds everything I've been struggling to explain to people for the past year - except you said it so much more eloquently! Thank you!

  • pvansick

    pvansick said 6 years ago

    This is a wonderful article! I feel like there is a shift with younger members of society. However, to give Obama any sort of credit is rediculous...

  • TodayImInspired

    TodayImInspired said 6 years ago

    Great thought provoking post... reminds me just how easy it is to get caught up in fast-fashion these days. And as a lover of fashion, it's important & liberating to make more fulfilling choices toward vintage, second hand and eco friendly fashion. Thanks for this article!

  • sailornet

    sailornet said 6 years ago

    it's true and the manufactures are of the third world's a shame!

  • SimplyTLee

    SimplyTLee said 6 years ago

    Great article! There was some great facts and definitely worth reading!

  • jungledread

    jungledread said 6 years ago

    Etsy has had a few articles with the same, very true, theme: Humanity is bigger than things. People should be bigger than cash

  • Waterrose

    Waterrose said 6 years ago

    What a great article and I love the depth to which you have written. I visit thrift shops often for many reasons and look at the racks and racks of clothing available. Thankfully people do buy these clothes, but many times it is for lack of funds. I do believe it is changing and people search out thrifty finds for ecological reasons now as well. We just need to educate people and especially our kids that we need to conserve.

  • TNShopthailand

    TNShopthailand said 6 years ago

    This is a fabulous article. The exact reason I would prefer to by my clothing here, on Etsy, as opposed to the mall.

  • kascha

    kascha said 6 years ago

    This article makes a lot of sense; however, I find it difficult to adhere to the advice given when such sustainable products are so expensive. I mean $120 for a tank top? Really? That is not reasonable for an average day citizen who is struggling in the current economy. Yes, if everyone jumped on the bandwagon and started purchasing better quality clothing the prices would decrease, but I do not see this occurring any time soon. I can't justify buying such an expensive tank top when my groceries come to $120 per week.

  • Demicrius

    Demicrius said 6 years ago

    Although I don't consider myself a fashionista, I am often quite fascinated by the different trends that are produced by the fashion industry. This article was very enlightening and sobering to the various ecological and economical costs of modern fashion as well as to its global ramifications. From my own personal experience, I’ve grown to see the importance of reusing and recycling clothing, instead of constantly buying into every fashion trend that comes along. My mom has been a great example to me of having a "sustainable wardrobe." Over the years my mom has amassed a vast clothing collection, which she maintains well so that she can continue to wear the garments over and over again. She also borrows and shares articles of clothing with her sisters and sometimes with me, and anything she doesn't wear frequently she will donate to the Salvation Army. Sometimes when I take a closer look at some of her older clothes, I will notice the good quality of the materials and see examples of great craftsmanship that is often absent from clothing that was made by outsourcing to developing countries. So I do agree with the notion that clothes should be "built to last" and should be worn not just for a season, but over many seasons. Recently, I've also become interested in the whole DIY clothing movement that promotes making your own unique threads from either refashioned old clothing (e.g. Threadbanger) or completely from scratch (e.g. Burdastyle and numerous sewing blogs). The whole process of making your own clothes from pattern and cloth to the final, finished garment is really appealing and seems like a highly satisfying pursuit. I feel that when you make your own clothes, you can really pay attention to all the little details (like a couturier) that make a garment unique, and really appreciate all the work that went into a well-made garment that you probably would not experience if the garment was mass-produced and simply bought in a store. I share the sentiments of the article that something needs to be done about the fashion industry’s unethical manufacturing practices. As previously mentioned organic textiles seem promising, but I do wonder if switching to using strictly organic textiles will make products so prohibitively expensive that it will actually detract most people from pursuing sustainable fashion.

  • nerdycraftgirl

    nerdycraftgirl said 6 years ago

    And now for more disparate thoughts... 1. When my mother's friends went out shopping when they were younger, she was always stuck by the cycle-esque nature of it all: you get all dolled up, so you can go shopping, so you can get more clothes to get all dolled up, so you can do more shopping... and this was 30 years ago! 2. My uncle worked for Nike at one point. Once, when he was in China visiting the Nike factory, he discovered that the price to make a pair of high grade Nike shoes was (drumroll) $7. That's a markup of up to 3000%! And again, nice, long, article.

  • komalow

    komalow said 6 years ago

    This is very well-written. One thought I'd like to share: eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that have existed for centuries, and yet they're often treated like out-of-control diets waged by young women wanting to look 'pretty'. A term like 'fashionrexia' completely belittles the psychological torment that women with anorexia suffer from because it equates a fitting-into-clothes-oriented diet with a very real disorder and perpetuates the illusion that it all comes down to vanity and looking good. This sort of subtle stigmatizing happens everywhere, but you seem like such an intelligent person that this is a worthwhile criticism to point out.

  • onewintrynight

    onewintrynight said 6 years ago

    WOW!!! Such an articulate and thought provoking article . . . I think it is Etsy at it's best, and the article is worth saving, sharing and re-reading. Thank you!

  • stylishkatieb

    stylishkatieb said 6 years ago

    Thank you so much for this article. I have really been feeling this way for the past year or so. I am going to be a more conscious consumer. I enjoy these thought provoking blogs, keep them up.

  • narasaca

    narasaca said 6 years ago


  • ihearthoodies

    ihearthoodies said 6 years ago

    absolutely amazing article... so scary to think that the sanctuary of shopping is more like running along over-crowded dark corridors...

  • stuckonewe

    stuckonewe said 6 years ago

    "Thirty years ago divorce, pornography, underage sex, drug addiction and teenage suicide were rare. Today they are pretty much the norm." Not true. These all have been happening for decades in the USA, they were just not TALKED about. Go back and read Cosmo and Good Housekeeping of the 50's and 60's and you'll find nothing is new...not even the concept that we have become "shattered" fashionistas. Slave labor has produced the garment industry also for decades. I'd like to see change, I'd like to see more production of clothing made in the USA. Let's give OUR workers a decent wage and pay more for clothes, right?

  • InMaterial

    InMaterial said 6 years ago

    Amazing article. I have been thinking about this for some time as the emphasis on having more has gotten more dominant in our society and around the world. I'm worried about our planet - it cannot sustain billions of people who want what first world countries have had for the last fifty years, but who are we to say they can't have it? All I can do is reduce my consumption, buy well-made things when I need to (etsy, yes!), and be ever mindful of the effect my actions have on our world - present and future. We all need to simplify our lives, and we will be better off for it. I need to read this again.

  • starallen

    starallen said 6 years ago

    This is an amazing piece that hits right to the core of so many issues those who make their careers in fashion shy away from to the extreme. I also work in the field of fashion journalism and it is so wonderfully refreshing to hear someone else call the mindless consumerism and self-defeating body image obsession called on the carpet instead of applauded for a change! Charty's words also inspired my own column:

  • pennywishes

    pennywishes said 5 years ago

    Thanks for writing this, Charty. Wonderful article!!

  • nicolemccaigue

    Nicole McCaigue from BeanieBudsAZ said 2 years ago

    This article is wonderful. Stopping to reflect is something we need to do more of. Our world has sped up to the point that we feel we can't stop and the stress of that is definitely killing the human condition and creating a very unhappy robot type reality. This article needs to be placed in all junior high and high school curriculum. Knowledge and understanding has to start early so that upcoming generations make better choices and can help the older generations caught up in this unhealthy external existence.,

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