Last night, I sold my soul to the sold soul of Martin Margiela. You shop fast fashion like you deserve to shop fast fashion—manically and with guilt. Sweating, eyes pursuant, flying from the adrenaline of where-the-fuck-are-those-boob-tops and the first sips of the free lychee cocktail in your left hand. Rabidly flipping through piles, circling the same sites for the sight of a size 6 black narrow lapeled jacket while H&M floor staff (who, collectively, may be making less in this shift than the budget for the squishy catered hors d’oeuvres no one is eating) graciously chime in, breaking the beat of the pulse of Call Your Girlfriend and other still(?) hits, to ask if you need help finding a size. This while having your picture candidly taken. In mall lighting. Sweating. Yes, a size 6. I didn’t know they made jewelry! Do I really need that $350 Edward Gorey style faux fur coat? That bitch looks like she has my size of plexiglass black booties in her hand. Tail her.
I try not to buy much fast fashion. Because if you care about what you wear and the state of the fashion system, you don’t. The quality isn’t there. The trends tend to be disposable. But, more importantly, every purchase is like voting yes to the status quo of clothing manufacturing and waste. In her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth L. Cline reports that we Americans are buying and hoarding roughly twenty billion garments per year and permanently altering our climate along the way. We have exported our manufacturing and are now making only two percent of the clothing we buy, down from about 50 percent in 1990. That results in problems at home: a decline in domestic wages, the loss of the middle class, and unemployment. We are spending less per garment and making more garments than ever before. Much of that ends up in the landfill. As Eugene Rabkin mentions in his great case against fast fashion collaborations (read it), the UK throws away over 900,000 garments each year, sometimes with the sales tags still on, while estimates say the US is dumping 10 million tonnes of clothing annually.
It’s not just our earth and economy that suffer from fast fashion. High turnover trend shops like H&M and Zara, which can get garment from “runway inspiration” to shop floor in two to three weeks, have contributed to the inhuman acceleration of the high fashion calendar. In a recent article for The New York Times on how Zara grew into the world’s largest fashion retailer (read it), Suzy Hansen talks to Tank editor Masoud Golsorkhi who notes that fast fashion companies, “broke up a century-old biannual cycle of fashion… Now, pretty much half of the high-end fashion companies make four to six collections instead of two each year. That’s absolutely because of Zara.” Plus, Forever 21 is the Chick-fil-a of fashion. Plus, these stores regularly knock off small and independent designers who don’t have the means to file suit. Plus, exploited labor abroad.
Plus, sweating and fighting through crowds, getting your hanger hooked on her hanger, dementedly laughing it off, and generally letting your scavenger animal instincts show. While having your picture taken.
Yesterday, I made the argument that Maison Martin Margiela’s collaboration with H&M may be their most avant move yet, that the paradox of a discreetly-branded, insider’s anti-fashion label partnering with a mass chain was inspiring pressing conversations (like Eugene Rabkin’s) about the fashion system and that that may be intentional on the Maison’s part.
Yesterday, after publishing that article, I met with Steve Oklyn of Not Vogue, who I recently lauded as the world’s greatest fashion critic. He told me he liked my take on Not Vogue (“respect”) but that I’d missed one thing: the humor. Steve, I totally got the humor—I RL LOL to your pages on the reg.—but, yeah, I forgot to mention it in my piece, didn’t I? Same holds for yesterday’s Margiela treatise. I forgot to mention how fucking funny the Margiela legacy is. So, rewrite! MMM is (three keys adjectives):
challenging, playful, conceptual, intellectual. The “most avant move” is tongue-in-cheek.
From now on I will refer to the Margiela with H&M collab as MMM HM because that’s the sound of my being unconvinced. I’m sticking with my essay that MMM HM “is a continuation of Margiela’s funhouse-mirror reflection of the fashion system, an inside joke and an insidious proposal of protest, a statement on authenticity and mechanical reproduction.” I’m going to amend that the joke’s on us. I’ll sell my soul again to have the video footage of last night’s launch for MMM HM. All of us fashion freaks pawing at racks of reproductions. Cheap reproductions that were like a xeroxed copy of a Donald Judd sculpture.
The quality is what you wish you didn’t expect. The Autumn-Winter 1993/1994 Re-Edition “Fusion of two dresses” I bought (I love) has a few threads sticking out. One silver candy clutch for me and one for my roomie and they’re already scratched and crinkled but isn’t that just the perfect emblem of MMM HM—like candy bars, fast fashion is an invention of modern manufacturing, not particularly good for you or your environment, tempting and addictive, guilt-inducing in excess but satisfying in moderation. In the vinyl “foil” wrapper of my MMM HM candy clutch I can see the distorted image of the fashion consumer I am.