There was a time in human history, when most people had just one set of clothes. Unlike much of the clothing today, it was made to last a long time. Only when the factory system came into being, and workers had enough discretionary income from the jobs created in the industrial revolution, did people have both the opportunity and the means to acquire a larger variety of clothing. Having just one set of clothes, it meant that set became an intrinsic part of the person’s sense of self. That set was the public face both of how other people saw the person as well as how the person perceived himself. The set of clothes merged with the person and became one with him.
As people were able to acquire many pieces of clothing and wear different outfits, clothing was no longer to be considered a fixed identifier for them. The decorative aspects of the clothing certainly enhanced, among other things, different roles a person would play: worker, churchgoer, a person enjoying leisure activities. And all these roles illuminated for a person the different identities that he had in relationship to the society in which he was living. When there is one set of clothes, that set of clothes becomes an intrinsic part of who you are. Multiple outfits, means a person begins to exist as a series of images where the focus is on how a person connects to a society through his clothing in different ways.
But now comes fast fashion. Cheap throwaway knockoffs of designer clothes. These disposable clothing items serve two different purposes. They help ordinary people temporarily merge with wealthy society people in a temporary collective identity. A collective identity that allows ordinary people to participate in the deeper longer-lasting preserved imprints of the wealthy life style through being able to wear the clothes of the wealthy But, at the same time, the fast fashion clothes allow ordinary people to temporarily escape what for them are their boring dreary ordinary senses of self. Their numb senses of self. This fast fashion clothing, which, by the way, leaves an enormous amount of pollution in the world in the process of its manufacture, acts as a vehicle to shock these people out of their numbness, out of the experiential vacuum that envelops their lives. These items of clothing act as a streaming of a fashion machine gun – a ratatat of provocative clothing that help a person to feel more vibrantly alive.
And to the extent that a person’s display of fashion clothing leaves a distinct impression, a unique imprint on the people in his life, he is also attempting to contribute to an individual surrogate immortality of his total fashion statements (his unique compilation and combination of knockoffs of the wealthy) that exists apart from the collective surrogate immortality to which he contributes by simply wearing the clothing lookalikes of the wealthy. Except, of course, his fashion clothing is not really his clothing and other people are buying the same clothing independent of the original customer. So, in order to make an attempt to keep the bundle of his streaming clothing identities unique and apart from everyone else, he has to keep buying the cheap disposable knockoffs, and by doing this, make his clothing compilation distinct from the people around him. The disposable clothing items are constantly being replaced by new items at the disposable items store, so if a person is sharp and quick, he will be able to acquire items that no one or almost no one around him has at that particular moment.
But while a person is desperately trying to bundle together a series of dress images to give him a kind of social grounding, the spaces in between the dress images create a physical vacuum of no clothing that fortify the vacuumized aspect of his being. Because the person himself obviously looks at his body in some ways as being nothing without being covered by what could be called upwardly mobile clothing. The more desperately the person tries to flash out a series of vibrant clothing images, the more he transparently reveals the numbness, the emptiness, the experiential vacuum that lies underneath.
Think of these bundles of knockoff clothing as little wildfires, that, while they burn, flash brightly orange. Then they burn out, and what is left are the ashes and dead vegetation, the brown, white and black of dead debris. The dead debris for the customers of fast fashion are the experiences of emptiness they encounter between the moments of shock therapy they try to create through the disposable clothing. The ordinary people buying this fast fashion clothing are desperately trying to find a way to put some fire in their own numb lives. It’s a way of getting kicks from clothing. It is a kind of wardrobe opium. As an addiction, perhaps one day there will be twelve step program groups dedicated to breaking the habits of all the people who constantly feel the need to go to stores like H&M and Zara and satisfy their clothing fixes. Perhaps someday, people will find healthier ways to feel more vibrantly alive.