Did you catch my 2017: The Year That Was post from last week? In my annual round-ups I like to do a “What I Learnt, Loved, Leave and Take” list, for reflection and for moving forward into the new year. When sitting down to think hard about these points of reflection for 2017, I had a really hard time reliving some of the inner turmoil I’ve been experiencing over the past year when it comes to this whole fashion game. It took me the best part of a day to write that blog post.
I mentioned in the What I Learnt section that I have come to the realisation that this day and age is not a great time for running a fashion label, and I shared some ideas on that matter, but said I’d share more at a later date. Well, with the closure of yet another established NZ fashion brand this week, and after watching a few labels that I’ve thought for years were putting out great stuff, close their doors during the past year or so, it seemed only appropriate to address my ideas/concerns about consumer behaviour now.
This moment in history is balls for running a fashion label. Clothing has been an increasingly undervalued commodity for years now, and as consumers have become more comfortable in the price-range that things are when they come out of third world factories in bulk, it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to swallow the price of things that are made locally or more ethically.
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The Price (Temptation)
There are stats on what percentage of the average income clothing used to cost, and as wages have increased over the decades, along with the other costs of living, clothing has stayed either constant in price or has fallen. Just look at examples like Primark in the UK and Kmart here in NZ. Wowzers, are those some ridiculous prices or WHAT?! You’ve probably also noticed how often shops and labels have sales these days. Nobody is buying anything at full price anymore, and labels have been pushed to offer discounts on the regular to stimulate sales, which in turn lowers the expected price-point for that brand, and the cycle continues.
The Hit (Pleasure)
To the general consumer, ridiculous prices feel like a ‘win’, getting a bargain feels like a ‘win’, and ‘winning’ gives that nice boost of dopamine. And in this instant gratification world we live in (thanks social media), who would trade in lots of frequent dopamine hits, for one single hit they had to actively save up for over a longer period of time?! I believe delayed gratification has certainly lost its appeal by 2017.
The Greed (Entitlement)
Buying many and buying often is a symptom of the fast-fashion, high-consumption world we live in. This trend/lifestyle is at odds with locally/ethically made clothes, as labels that produce products like these have no choice but to position themselves at the higher end of the fashion spectrum. And while there are customers out there with money to spare for quality goods, they are the minority. The majority of people sit in the middle where they have hard financial decisions to make over ‘how much can I get for my dollar’. While some of this group are ethically minded when it comes to fashion, this mindset doesn’t always follow through to final purchasing decisions. It’s kind of like indulging in junk-food; you know it’s an iffy choice as you reach for it, but it was so convenient and the right kind of affordable, and you can always start being ‘good’ again tomorrow. The ramifications of choosing junk over the ethical and sustainable is that harmful cycles are perpetuated (see True Cost for more), and those local and ethical companies who are trying to offer better choices (for the world and its people) fall over without the consumer capital to keep their companies running. Your dollar vote counts for a lot, please don’t think that it doesn’t.
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I feel that I now see the consumer world we live in with greater, simpler clarity, and while it might sound otherwise, I hold no one else responsible for my label not ‘making it’. It’s just not the right time to do this thing. Global competition is real, price competitiveness is real, and I’m not interested in a race to the bottom. I work hard and my work is good. It just feels like it’s not a good time for fashion with soul and heart, substance and care. The free market has spoken, and those extras are a luxury few can afford in the lives we lead today. But in saying that, I stand alongside Dame Vivienne Westwood and her request of us as consumers: Buy Less, Choose Well, Make It Last.
This learning/realisation has put me in a lot of turmoil this past year; it has left me heartbroken and tossing in the wind. I’ve often been told I’m lucky to know what my passion in life is and know what I’m good at, but I have to say, I haven’t felt all that lucky this past year to know what I love and am good at, while also knowing that I’m living/working through a time that won’t allow me to do that thing for a living. It’s felt royally unfair. I’m sure there’s plenty of other creatives, especially musicians and artists, that feel me on that one. For the joy and colour and intrigue that creatives bring to the world, they sure do get a rough go of it. #strugglingartistlife
As of today I don’t know what this all means for Devel, I had been considering a re-brand most of last year, but as I analyse how the industry works (which long-time readers know has been a past-time of mine since starting this blog, see the What In The World), the grief becomes greater in size, because it just seems so fuckin’ hard to do fashion in a way that’s not hurting me or others. Let alone the way a normal fashion company works, from a business sense, is capital-hungry (samples and collections made a year in advance, photoshoots, campaigns, manufacturing…) and highly risky (in today, out tomorrow).
On a positive note: I have started to look into what the local fabric market is offering in the way of organic fabrics, because if I am to go forwards doing this fashion thing, then I want to make sure what I’m doing is good to its core. So I’m doing my due diligence, and will keep you all in the loop of any changes on the horizon. For now I’ll be doing some soul-searching and lots of research, and will either come back with some sort of fashion genius, or I’ll call it a day.
Thank you for listening and for all of your support to date, I couldn’t have reached as high as I have with Devel without you beautiful people