When trying to be a responsible consumer in a globalized and interconnected world, in which every action we do has consequences that we do not acknowledge in other people around the globe, you can sometimes feel in the train paradox, in which you can divert it to kill just one person or do nothing and let three die.
No matter what you do, there will be people affected and the two options that you have are limited between choosing the minor damage possible, because there will be damage, or ignore the problem and not take part of it, at least consciously.
In the last couple of days, the agitated world of fashion, which tends to forget how tendency and news could affect the way it works, has seen how a group of activists bursted into the Louis Vuitton ready-to-wear spring runway show 2022, the leader brand for luxurious clothes and accessories. In the middle of chaos, the inert faces of models that were walking past the activists and guests, who knew exactly what was going on but tried to look puzzled, you could read signs that contrasted with the luxurious place because they were untidily made, but clearly read: ‘overconsumption = extinction.’
However, this type of protests are not new for the industry. In 2002, activists burst into a Victoria’s Secret runway show to protest against Gisele Bundchen who had recently signed a contract with Blackgama, a brand which mainly makes fur coats. What makes this recent event peculiar is the specific message that they showed in the sign, which raises conversation about the excess in consumption, a problem that fashion is inherently responsible for, as it is obvious, but that raises questions about ways and backgrounds.
When we talk about fast-fashion, the answer is obvious: this industry represents 10% of the CO2 emissions in the world (GreenPeace Mexico, 2021), which is more than enough reason to be in the spotlight. However, the place chosen to send the message and the one we guess is the intended recipient, luxurious fashion, does not deal exclusively with the production dynamics, sales and waste that fast-fashion deals with. In fact, many of the articles that were being presented in the parade had been made to be considered more of an investment than a simple piece of clothing, therefore, made to last and be reused over the years. Nature of luxurious fashion itself is opposite to overconsumption.
However, as in the train paradox, the solution is not as simple. Even though it is true that the luxurious fashion business is not based on earning profit through the amount of sales, the people it is aimed at do have the possibility to overconsume. And they do.
We humans do not decide based on business models, but based on desire, something that the big fashion brands know how to take advantage of very well. In every season, new tendencies arrive and make the bag a user bought a few months ago, something untrendy and worthy of getting rid of, be gifted, or stay at the back of a wardrobe to be replaced by a “better” one, even though, in theory, the old one could work perfectly for decades. This phenomena is carried into fast-fashion that feeds itself with luxurious fashion trends: a vicious circle of waste and, as activists truthfully expressed, consumerism.
GreenPeace México. January 29, 2021. Fast Fashion: from your wardrobe to the bin. https://www.greenpeace.org/mexico/blog/9514/fast-fashion/