A Factory in Dhaka provides a contrasting message to the glamour and hype of H&M.
What better timing for part 2 of 'why I won't be buying cheap clothes again' then the opening of H&M in Auckland. Saturday morning at Sylvia Park was a strange moment in New Zealand's fashion history. As I watched the masses I pondered the excitement before me and I couldn't help but pen my thoughts.
High above the crowds at Sylvia Park this morning, Cam and I marvel at the sheer size and power of the display before us. One hour away from the opening of H&M some 500 shoppers have already gathered; organised in queues, waiting for NZ's latest disposable fashion icon to open its doors.
I wish I could convince just one shopper to give up their place in the line. To come and join me and answer a few simple questions. What drives you to wake up early on a Saturday morning to wait outside a disposable fashion store? What is in this store that you don't already have? What satisfies the desperation of waiting for those doors to open? The bigger picture tells us that there is nothing fundamentally different about this store. Aptly named, Factorie is open next door with the same prices and styles; clothing that is no less likely to be trashed within two years.
So what is it?
You'll hate me for saying it, but I think it's that you've swallowed the sugary lie that fast fashion perpetuates. The lie that H&M have perfected in this youthful, energetic display before you; 'our products will complete your look and your wardrobe won't be finished without them'. We actually joke about this sort of marketing and yet there are 500 people before me, each making a public protest of their firm belief in it, whether they realised it or not. You may argue the contrary but I ask you to state one other time in your life where you have waited in a line for two hours for something that you are unlikely to want within a month, something disposable that isn't food, a movie or a theme park. It's a sad and poignant comparison, because unlike that theme park or epic movie, the items you are about to buy will not make a lasting impression on you. They will not better your wardrobe, nor will they complete it.
The 500 people in this line are a good size for a factory so let's pretend: each person in the queue is given a tiny desk and a sewing machine and told them that if they sewed relentlessly for the next 12 hours they could purchase one item for free. Will they choose to do it? Absolutely not! Then what are we doing here? Gorging on this sugary lie whilst ignoring the damaging industry behind it? The value of these items is equal to nothing in our wardrobes and yet garment workers sew tirelessly to produce them, in unsafe factories and for hand to mouth pay.
Pay that merely feeds them and nothing more.
As I glance with birds eye view over this crowd I see women my own age and older, in fact I see less teens then I would've guessed. I imagine that in the heat of their buying frenzy today they will likely spend an average of $100 maybe more. As a representative of 160 ethical fashion companies I can assure you that your $100 is valuable money in the ethical fashion market. If you buy 5 items today, maybe one worn and undesirable item will be remain in your closet after two years. Alternatively, you could spend $100 on a well made, organic cotton item that in two years will represent the same quality, value and ethos that it does today. And let's not forget that it will still look great! So much cannot be said for the cheap and nasty items pouring out of H&M's doors today.
So if you do hop out of the line and survey the big picture of fashion with me, what will you see? You will see that fast fashion is a tasty cocktail of sweet nothings, a purpose built money-making-machine, an industry that runs on the power of 40 million exploited garment workers. Solely devoted to manufacturing items of no true value; items that will be forgotten as quickly as the garment workers who make them. And that is why I wont be buying cheap clothes again.