Top Fashion Cities | Tog Wears

said, “You need to get the designers weighing in
on
this issue and using organic cotton and the proper dyes and so on.
If
Marc Jacobs did it, we would all be buying these clothes.” Change
is
possible, but it has to come from the fashion domain. Aesthetics is
crucial
to the appeal of eco-fashion.
As
noted above, participants cared greatly about sustainability, but
only
as it related to food, recycling, and, in some cases, cosmetics (now
available
containing organic ingredients). If consumers recognize the demands
that
fast fashion makes on the environment, they seem to block
it
from their consciousness (Joergens 2006). Aesthetics trump ethics, at
least
for the time being. Niinimaki (2010) notes that, while ethical hard
liners
are increasing in number, that number is still low.
Moreover,
Niinimake argues, cost is far from the sole barrier to embracing
eco-fashion:
style, quality, color, compatibility with one’s current
wardrobe,
and an ongoing desire for new clothes—which means
valuing
volume over ethical considerations—affect consumer purchase
decisions
as well.
When
we asked participants about luxury fashion, the three main
themes
that emerged were dreams, exclusivity, and beauty/art. Fast
fashion
allows dreams of luxury to come true. Style is achievable even
if
quality is compromised; if an article of clothing is not really “beautiful”
and
“elegant” as is the genuine item, consumers can nonetheless
afford
the fast fashion option. For our participants, the idea of owning
exclusive,
unique items from a luxury brand is both an aspirational
dream
and a desire; yet, even as aspirations motivate them to pursue
their
dreams, pragmatism prevails. As Tom, a thirty-something Canadian
fashion
store manager, said: “Polo is not only a traditional game
played
by the upper classes (e.g. Prince Charles), it also refers to the
social
and emotional attitude of people towards exclusive and luxury
products.
This is a dream that I cherish…but it is not within my reach
currently.
I hope my dreams will come true one day.” The notion of
exclusivity,
accessible to only a select few, is also evident. John, a Canadian
salesmanager, noted: “I chose a picture of a woman taking a bath
in
Dom Perignon champagne…a symbol of the lifestyle of an extremely
rich
social class…I don’t care about the money so much as the freedom
to
do what you want and when you desire it.” Implicit in the conception
of
exclusivity is that of a signifier of status. Tim, a Hong Kong financial
officer,
chose a picture of a Patek Philippe watch. He stated: “People in
Hong
Kong want to own at least one watch like this in their lifetime. I
also
want to own one of these, which helps increase my status as a man,
Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of
Luxury Brands
287
and
shows to my close male friends that I am also able to buy luxury
products.”
Patek Philippe, unlike Rolex, is not worn by a large number
of
people in Hong Kong. It is a dream product, while Rolex is seen as
readily
accessible. It takes knowledge to select a Patek Philippe watch;
this
participant aspires to a look that is very cultivated.
While
the dream quality is essential to a luxury product, in some instances,
a
long history and heritage further intensify a brand’s strength.
Louis
Vuitton, for instance, prides itself on having provided royalty
with
luggage. Quality is assured in all aspects of its business (or so is
the
claim), since Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy has designed exclusive
objects
for the nobility. While Patek Philippe may not have served the
nobility,
it does have a rich tradition of creating exclusive and extraordinarily
well-crafted
dream products. Creating such products takes time,
which
in turn limits availability; highly trained artisans work with carefully
chosen,
exclusive materials that are not produced en masse.
The
dreamlike quality of luxury products has its origin in elaborate
craft
ateliers where generations of artisans have created one-of-a-kind
products.
Cathy, a student participant from Hong Kong who selected an
image
of Chaumet gold earrings among her choices, observed: “Chaumet
has
served royalty since the early eighteenth century. Each piece is
placed
in a frame like a piece of fine art, and can be seen through the
shop
window. It shows they [the earrings] are unique, special, and have
a
rich history. Only people who are in the know will use such fine and
Heritage
and quality appeal because they do not conjure up pollution,
dwindling
natural resources, and global warming—most of which
are
associated with the oil and transportation industries. There is little
exploitation
of labor, since most ateliers are attached to big fashion
houses
located in major fashion cities, such as Paris and Milan, although
outsourcing
to countries such as China and India is raising the
specter
of sweatshop operations.
Beauty and Art
The
final theme of beauty, elegance, and art is important as well. Tanya,
a
Hong Kong participant, commented: “Pearls give us a sense of luxury
because
they are elegant, bright, luminous, expensive, and gloriously
beautiful.
High fashion brands…make us look elegant.” Catherine (the
Canadian
participant referenced earlier), linked luxury brands to art
and
said: “I chose the picture of the Mona Lisa to represent the artistic
quality
of haute couture. I associate it with the personalization of the
288 Annamma
Joy, John F. Sherry, Jr, Alladi Venkatesh, Jeff Wang and Ricky Chan
artist/designer.
Some people refer to haute couture as moving art.” It is
clear
from the observations of the participants that they dream of exclusivity,
beauty,
art, design, and heritage—all of which are associated
with
luxury brands. Yet, this ideal seems distant. They love the glamour
and
style, but lament the expense. They see that the next best alternative
is
to buy fast fashion items. These items approximate the look,
but
at a fraction of the cost. Consumers compromise on quality, the
factor
central to undermining sustainability. If the items used featured
high-quality
material and stitching, they would not fall apart after ten

washes. Yet fast fashion companies highlight a limited product life span

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