Originally published on The Lady Shed 17/07/15
“The thing with you is that you are very slow with fashion. By the time you like something, it’s no longer dans le vent” said my Mum, many years ago. It was Summer time, long before I had big children of my own, she had not seen me for months so, as every Summer, we’d gone for my yearly treat: clothes shopping.
I miss those days. Not so much for the cheap ‘French’ clothes nobody else I knew back in England would be wearing, though that was nice, or being spoilt by my mother, though that was great; just the time spent together.
South of France in August, busy beaches way too hot, high streets boiling, we’d go and spend a couple of hours after lunch in the shopping centre in the middle of the local zone industrielle; more shopping extravaganza than industrie.
Conditioned air kept us cool, conditioned shoppers enjoyed buying, conditioned sales assistant rarely smiled. I never questioned then where my clothes might be made. Or by whom. Or why the smiles on the shop assistants were so rare. No idea. Too busy being young, working, and being on holiday with my family. And getting new clothes.
Because lots of bargains was normal.
Thing is, it’s not so much that I am slow, which I can be, it is more a case of not giving two hoots about fashion. Didn’t really then, and sure don’t now. Don’t try and tell me what I should wear. Simple. I don’t do fashion mags filled with skinny models that look nothing like this five foot something pear shaped reader. Clothes that are supposed to be in fashion today, out tomorrow, as opposed to beautiful classic clothes à la Audrey Hepburn?
I guess I see fashion a bit like uniforms. With more choice, ok, but it’s still let’s all wear what we’re told. Seasonal sensation. Of course I hate uniforms. For a start they make me think of the army. Well I didn’t have to wear a school uniform as a child you see, so I’m not conditioned to think it’s normal for a six year old to wear a uniform; let alone a tie.
From army uniform follows a sense of having to do what am told, almost blindly; obey. I came round for a while to the English view that uniforms, especially at school, makes us all the same, equal. Am no longer convinced. Kids can see through the uniform. If they want to bully or judge, they will.
Uniforms for children totally kick any kind of creativity or uniqueness in the teeth. What do you mean the child can’t wear different colour socks? For goodness’ sake. Get a life. But I do buy jeans. When the old ones are too knackered. And comfortable shoes, heels are so yesterday darling; and cotton tops. I do have a few shirts, you know, for special occasions. And a few dresses for Very Special Occasions. So in fact, I have a uniform. Practical, maybe, but the same trousers as millions of other people who don’t have to wear a suit.
So what about the future of fashion big brands then? I asked a man who works in the fashion industry. He is an artistic director, his clients are big brands, he travels the world, so his point of view on the future of his industry interested me. His reply came as a surprise. I imagined the rag trade, considering it is neither new, nor known for being shy about making money at any cost would have had a cunning plan.
Big famous brands have mainly kept going by getting into new markets, like Japan or the big green eyed monster dragon with huge potential that is China. No Plan B if that fails. Sounds familiar, isn’t that the road supermarkets have been driving down? Expansion via forever new markets. And, are they not struggling with that plan?
Expansionism is all very well, but it is a recipe for success up to a point. As with everything else, on our finite planet, some call that a recipe for disaster. It all depends how we choose to look at a story. It will benefit some, at the cost of others. For fashion, supermarkets, or the economic model that rules our lives the current chapter is being written with no idea of what happens in the next page, let alone the next chapter.
Sophia writes about 50 shops in 50 days and £1 T-shirts which sounds bonkers but will appeal to many; Maddie tells us about clothes shopping in charity shops and her love for fashion. All very far from shoes with red soles or size 0 models. Far closer to reality. Whatever that is these days, in fashion as in everything else. From Rana Plaza to gold embroidered gowns worn once, it seems the world has not changed much when it comes to the rag trade. Only now, it’s properly international. And these days Brits know what’s going on in Bangladesh, if they want to.
And if you want to know which companies paid up to help the victims of Rana Plaza and who does not care one bit about the workers without whom we’d have no cheap clothes, and they’d have no company, have a little look at Clean Clothes Campaign, one of the many organisations trying to make a difference in our mad changing world.
One little or big step at a time.
Trying to improve the working conditions in the global garment industry seems a good idea. Non?
Right, that’s all very well, but I wonder.
Did my mother have a point about my being slow?
Or not being dans le vent?
Oh well, who cares.