People are buying fewer clothes, for very good reasons

shopping for clothes
CC BY 2.0 DaveBleasdale

There is a growing trend toward 'New Consumerism', which means that people are buying more conscientiously than ever before.

Skinny jeans became popular ten years ago. I’ll never forget the horror I felt, arriving back in Canada after a year in Brazil, to find people walking the streets of Toronto in pants that looked like something my (seriously untrendy) mother would wear. I told a friend, “You’ll never catch me dead in those.” A decade later, she still teases me about that comment, as skinny jeans have obviously become a wardrobe staple.

Since then, nothing terribly big or exciting has happened in the fashion world, according to retailer Urban Outfitters:

“Real changes in fashion which spur the public into spending money on a whole new look are few and far between. In mainstream terms, the last really big trend was skinny jeans… And we’re still wearing them” (The Independent).

It appears that people are less interested in buying clothes than they once were. While they’re spending more money than ever, those dollars are being directed elsewhere, typically more toward food and away from fashion, where retailers are reporting decreases in profit. Seasonal trends are increasingly removed from reality, as people don’t want to spend their money on updates that appear insignificant. The Independent reports:

“There is a world of difference between the ‘seasons’ that fashion editors talk about, with different styles offered up to four times a year, and the real world, where people put on layers and just don’t see the need for a new coat every October.”

Today’s consumers are reassessing their priorities and questioning what they really value. This fits into the growing trend of ‘New Consumerism,’ a term coined by research firm Euromonitor International to describe a widespread movement that prioritizes conscientious shopping over conspicuous consumerism. There are eight key trends that comprise New Consumerism:

1) The circular economy (where everything is use and nothing is wasted)
2) Frugal innovation (eliminating costly, unnecessary features from inventions)
3) Trading up and trading down (willingness to compromise in some areas to be able to splurge in others)
4) The sharing economy (connecting supply and demand, disrupting the traditional way of conducting business)
5) Experiential purchases over material ones
6) Buying time for oneself (an increase in outsourced tasks)
7) Reassessing one’s use of space (i.e. Do I really need to live in a large home?)
8) The ‘gig’ economy (characterized by short-term work contracts and freelancing, as well as the ability to move around)

In the fashion world, writes Business of Fashion, New Consumerism has translated into demand for increased transparency, authentic brand values, sustainable production processes, an embrace of the sharing economy, and unique retail experiences, among other things.

Matters look hopeful, in other words. It seems that people are seeing through the evils of the fast fashion industry, realizing it’s a waste of money to buy cheap, poorly-made clothes, and wanting something better for themselves and for the world. They’re more willing to make do with what they have, accessorize rather than replace, celebrate vintage looks, shop second-hand, and swap clothes around with friends.

Here’s to yet another decade of skinny jeans!

Tags: Clothing | Green Fashion | Shopping

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