The High Cost of High Fashion

The High Cost of High Fashion

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He high fee of reasonably-priced style”: there’s no more cliché in the popular discourse about ethics and fashion. Countless books, articles, documentaries, and online social areas are committed to providing and reinforcing this idea.

For its purveyors, the phrase is meant no longer handiest as a warning call, however, a name to the movement. “The excessive cost of cheap fashion” indicators customers to the degrading hard work situations and environmental practices that are worried inside the production of cheap latest garments, or so-referred to as fast fashion. It implores clients to stop shopping at fast-fashion retailers, to forestall being duped via cheap costs and the fact reduce to style tendencies.

What may additionally sense like a fashion scouse borrows, we’re told, is truly robbing employees of a residing salary and safe operating conditions, and robbing valid designers of their creative property. Like fast meals’ convenient however empty energy, fast fashion offers a quick however ultimately empty fix. Paying extra for garments, speedy style critics insist, isn’t always handiest the ethical factor to do — it’s far the fashionable issue to do.

Opposing speedy style is intuitively appealing. It frequently springs from a true desire to make the world a higher location, to restrict exploitation, and foster creativity.

But it’s significantly improper. To decry this low-level, already stigmatized marketplace is to either misunderstand or intentionally forget about the structural relationships and realities of the larger style system. Anti–fast style stances supply upward push to racist, elegance-biased, and ahistorical myths approximately garment employees, finances style customers, and comfort style. And in doing so, they go away intact the very practices they’re purpose on decrying.


Fast fashion is handiest one marketplace inside a huge clothing industry. While it’s undeniably a commercial powerhouse, its cultural impact is negligible. Its commercial enterprise version is based totally on looking for — no longer defining — cultural trends after which producing and turning in them months or once in a while days before peer and upmarket competitors. In this manner, rapid style markets play an essential, if beneath-identified, function in maintaining the larger apparel enterprise. Mass-marketplace variations of luxury designs compel elite customers and types to search for new developments that allow you to distinguish themselves from the mass marketplace.

Despite their critical role, but, fast-fashion designs usually don’t capture headlines or public interest unless: (1) they’re accused of copying a luxurious brand; (2) a luxurious logo is stuck replicating a fast style garment (as with Saint Laurent’s recent knockoff of a Forever 21 dress); or (3) they’re the difficulty of an anti–rapid style news tale.

The principal myth of anti–speedy fashion discourse is that low charges symbolize low standards of manufacturing (and a lower-quality product), while excessive expenses imply high requirements of production (and a high-quality product). This is what economists call “the Veblen impact,” named for Thorstein Veblen, who in 1899 theorized that expensive goods appealed to elites as status symbols.




Today, greater highly-priced models are nevertheless related to better popularity customers whose tastes aren’t simply “better” but additionally morally advanced, ethically discriminating, and knowledgeable approximately the “excessive costs of reasonably-priced fashion.” Anti-rapid style campaigns urge customers to keep away from budget shops to show that they stand towards the exploitation of fashion workers and intellectual assets theft. Those who don’t heed their name and switch to shopping for more luxurious items are complicit within the horrors of speedy style.

Yet it isn’t simply speedy fashion manufacturers that replica different designers or use sweatshop labor. These practices exist throughout the enterprise, from budget to luxurious style. It’s no longer uncommon to discover employees within the identical factory generating both fast style and luxury fashion clothes or to find them making both the “unique designs” and the fast-style variations.

And excessive worker abuses and fitness and safety violations have been again and again reported in factories making garments for the likes of Prada, Burberry, Valentino, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen, and Tommy Hilfiger. The presence of an excessive-cease fashion label does now not automatically mean that hard work rights had been found.


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