Kirstie Clements: The difficulty balancing fashion and social responsibility

A wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear? We've all been there.

A wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear? We've all been there. Photo: Getty

Scrolling through Twitter, I was interested to read a post where the question was posed: “Does everybody else wake up in the morning and hate all of their clothes?”.

A great deal of people had commented underneath, and agreed that it happened regularly. That they often open the doors of the wardrobe and think “Yuck !I hate everything”, especially women.

I’m certainly not immune to this either.

The push and pull and allure of fashion. A  gnawing idea that maybe you should be bothering to pay attention to new trends, the feeling that there is nothing in your cupboard that feels magical or even makes you feel good about yourself, then topped with a dose of guilt about overconsumption, vanity, and wasted money.

We are told, by people like me to be honest, to buy less, buy better, but then we are assaulted with marketing and advertising and everyone shilling their new outfits on social media.

We just end up confused and dissatisfied with our wardrobe choices. We are only human, and it can be difficult not to be influenced by the great marketers, the clever media and, of course, the influencers.

I increasingly feel that some of the responsibility should be shifted back to the actual fashion, retailers and media houses. Does a pyjama brand need to send out an EDM about the same style/different colour every single day? Does media have to promote the ”180-plus items our editors are loving” on a seemingly weekly basis?

You can claim to be as green and sustainable and mindful and ethical as you like, but ceaseless marketing and discounting and free returns are the crux of the problem and a big part of a brand’s social responsibility.

Where is the sweet spot between rampant capitalism and brand profits and ethical consumerism? Does it lie solely in our hands – us, the ones who are trying our best to keep up and be sensible, but still have a wardrobe of clothes that we may not even like?

Michael Schragger, founder of the Sustainable Fashion Academy in Stockholm said in a recent article in the New York Times: “Consumers are not, cannot and should not be the driving force for completely changing an industry – not the least because as long as it’s easy, fast and cheap to buy fashion then the sustainability aspect of the offer will always be a secondary choice.”

According to the NYT article by Elizabeth Paton, despite a growing number of ecologically minded fashion shoppers, clothing purchases have increased fivefold since 1980 and the average garment will be worn only seven times before it’s disposed of.


Ethical marketing should be part of sustainable fashion. Photo: Getty

“In part,” Mr Schragger is quoted as saying, “that’s because companies are not obligated by law to meet corporate and social responsibility targets.”

So, we may well see some governmental and legislative changes in the future, but I also think as consumers we are worn out, bewildered by the mixed messages, lured by cheap clothes and taunted by weird and expensive irony going on at the luxury end, like US$475 baseball caps.

It’s not entirely our fault. The industry exists to make us feel constantly dissatisfied.

Chances are the clothes you already own are just fine.

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