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Why Fast Fashion Companies Need To Stop Hijacking Personal Politics

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 years ago | Features

Image: Mango ‘Femme’ T-shirt. Image source.

It seems that a month can’t go at the moment by without a major fast fashion retailer being accused of ripping off some independent artist or another. And the problem with the continuation of this vicious cycle is not just the copyright infringement involved for the artist in question, but also the fact that this process usually involves fast fashion hijacking personal politics as well. Because the personal is political today and many of the most influential artists and creatives stand for something – whether it’s feminism, racial equality or all manner of significant socio-political messages. So by stealing the work of these individuals, fast fashion retailers often hijack their personal politics in the process. Which is a massive problem.

This is a problem personally and economically for the affected artist, but it is a problem for broader society as well. Because commercial entities like this are able to squash important countercultural movements by virtue of watering down their messaging. Take Normcore, for example, which as a movement was all about rejecting capitalism by reverting to a homogenous uniform of vintage blue jeans and white sneakers. By embracing sameness, proponents of Normcore were able to push back against the voracious trend culture that’s propped up by fast fashion companies. But as soon as companies like H&M and Zara started to produce those same vintage-look blue jeans and stark white sneakers, the message behind the uniform started to lose its punch.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, either, but one that stretches back even as far as subcultures like punk. In this particular group’s case, the likes of safety pins and Dr. Martens boots were used to communicate a set of anti-authoritarian ideals. But now fast fashion companies have clumsily appropriated those same style codes to the point that their true origins bear very little weight anymore. And when you think about it, this isn’t so different to when Forever 21 rips off a T-shirt created to benefit Planned Parenthood. Because suddenly, the important feminist message behind said garment becomes diluted by mass production.

So how do we combat all of this then? Well, with any luck, Gorpcore could represent a great way to do just that. Because, unlike many of the socio-political movements that came before it, Gorpcore’s identifiers aren’t purely aesthetic ones – instead the way they are made are just as, if not more, important than their appearance. This is because Gorpcore is about saving the planet, one sustainably made T-shirt at a time. It is for this reason that the movement is so tied to particular responsible companies like Patagonia and Teva. The fast fashion giants can’t sever these sorts of ties so easily, because simply replicating a Patagonia tee means nothing unless it is also made with the same sense of sustainability. And fast fashion is simply too unsustainable in practice to ever achieve that.

So whether or not fast fashion actually succeeds in continuing to decimate important political movements, it is important for us all to recognise the power of our personal politics. To not just hone those personal politics, but also to shop with them in mind. Whether that means focussing on sustainability like the proponents of Gorpcore do, for instance, or choosing to minimise your waste by curating a personal uniform of pieces designed with this value in mind. Ultimately, the power of the fast fashion retailer ends their ability to make you part ways with your precious dollars. And once you stop valuing the trends that they churn out, then those brands stop having control over your personal values.   

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