The fashion industry is on the verge of becoming obsolete.
Stagnant water is bound to corrupt.
Contrary to popular belief, the fashion industry is slow. However, the energy consumed is enormous, so everyone is exhausted, but the pace of progress is dead, so I wonder if there is any other inefficient industry like this one. It’s easy to think that the whole industry is changing rapidly and chasing after it because everyone is busy and moving around, but the progress of this industry is indeed too slow.
It’s like we’re running in circles — we put in a lot of time and effort, but we don’t get anywhere. And while running laps around a race track might be beneficial for your health, the fashion industry is stuck in a loop is detrimental. So what can we do to address this issue?
Trends come and go, and I want to ask how long you plan to come and go? New brands keep popping up, and designers keep making things, but it’s still hard to see if there’s an absolute novelty there. I might not be an expert, but I believe that actual, monumental change needs to happen in a way that appeals to the general public. Your average citizen doesn’t care about the innovative designs because it all looks the same to them without a vested interest in fashion design.
It is no different from apartments here in South Korea. A neighbourhood might have a variety of separate flats built by various construction companies with subtle differences in their design. Renters do not care that much about differences; what’s important is the apartment’s location. And the fashion industry is the same as flats.
Back to my main point, the fashion industry feels like it’s “de-evolving” as it alienates itself from society, both in terms of design and industry. The industry has attempted to embrace different body types, but their actual products paint another picture. They rely on their historical prestige and promote it as a relic of the past but ignore the industry’s complicated history, sweeping past mistakes under the rug. Variations such as how much the body is exposed and how we wear oversized clothes are the joys that only fashion design can give humans. Exposing the body or covering it up are choices that only the fashion industry can afford us.
However, the depiction of these clothes in the media can differ significantly from their actual usage by the consumer. Whether or not something is “fashionable” isn’t determined by a democratic vote but instead diffused to the populace through a top-down approach. So fashion houses and celebrities — those that get to sit at the top — should take responsibility for the way their fashion influences what’s “fashionable”.
How long do we have to create controversy with uncomfortable clothes for many to wear? How long do we have to live by fitting our bodies to our clothes? How long do you think people will want to wear clothes without thinking about what they want? As it is a come-and-go industry, it is inevitably necessary to bring out the design of the past. Nevertheless, should we turn the clock back for these issues?
Even if you turn your eyes to manufacturing, it is the same thing. Luxury houses today are popular just because they are famous. Luxury houses are built on craftsmanship and the high quality they guarantee. There were elements that consumers could feel the distinguishing difference. These elements are their unique heritage and culture, which they must maintain and protect. However, luxury houses seem to have forgotten their mission. Maybe, their role model is INDITEX. Produce too many items. Without a printed name, it is increasingly difficult to tell them apart. Legacy is becoming a thing of the past, literally. Craftsmanship is just an image on media to justify the price. In factories, workers only ‘produce’ for wages close to exploitation. While there have been breakthroughs in production facilities for mass production, this is also not the case. Workers are still making them with their own hands and feet.
No matter how much the media fantasizes about fashion designers, the fashion industry is, after all, the manufacturing industry. Even with the advent of the 21st century, fashion is still a labour-intensive human industry. There is no room for words such as automation and advanced technology to enter here. Even when fully autonomous driving arrives and the pedal disappears from the car, people will still be stepping on the sewing machine pedal, even in a harsh environment that is no different from now. As a result, multinational corporations will have to find countries with cheaper labour, build new factories, and then look for other candidates in the meantime. Wage cuts and arrears are the basic of basics.
After the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, workers in countries where apparel production is one of the country’s leading industries, such as Bangladesh, wanted to be able to speak up on wage negotiations and substantive increases. Still, there is a long way to go in a situation where neither the government nor companies want it. Far from improving the case, they are constantly trying to block even small changes. The industry, which should be most sensitive to change, is insensitive to the most critical issues.
Even narrowing it down to Korea, the situation is no different. Even after Jeon Tae-il’s self-immolation protest, the welfare of sewing artisans is still far from such as Northern Europe’s welfare system. Still, they cannot have a proper mealtime as they are paid according to the quantity of work on the day and the unit price for each type of clothing. The wage for trench coats has not risen for 30 years.* (The Hankyoreh, 2018) Jeon Tae-il sacrificed himself to guarantee Sunday. However, the fact is only resting on Sunday until now. Half a century has already passed since that incident.
When I look back on humankind’s achievements in other fields over the same period, this industry is regressing rather than standing still. Cash is good to accumulate, but a pile of money cause a negative return every year considering the inflation rate. Like this, the fashion industry is just fun to look at right now; however, it is questionable whether it can expect practical value in the future.
Aside from all that, just because the two attached photos coexist in the same industry and the same era (even now), isn’t it clear that something is going wrong? This system works by making clothes that are uncomfortable for the wearer daily while someone is not guaranteed a minimum working environment just because of fashion. If both the maker and the wearer are uncomfortable, clothes are for whom?