Monday, 2 April 2012

The devil wears green

Addressing the 'shopping momentum effect' in the fashion world.

by Ngalula Beatrice Kabutakapua 

 What is the probability of being run over by a car? Considering the constant fashion daydreaming of people in Oxford Street, London, it’s too high here.
A prolonged, deafening horn sound comes from a taxi and it makes the heart bouncing in the chest. A woman almost died on the crossing lines. Charmed under the H&M sign, she had not notice the lights turned red when she was crossing the street. 

Taxi drivers must be seeing this a lot at the thoroughfare of Europe’s busiest shopping lane, with its 300 stores. Official website says Oxford Street is visited by five million people every week. It’s like Finland population gathers along 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) of pavement, for the main purpose of spending money. 

In 2005, three professors introduced the concept of shopping momentum effect. Yale professor Ravi Dhar, Joel Huber from Duke University and Uzma Khan from Tepper School of Business published a paper saying that a shopping momentum occurs “when an initial purchase provides a psychological impulse whose momentum drives the purchase of a second, unrelated product.” In other words, the more you buy, the more you want to. 

From an environmental perspective, the compulsive shopping on Oxford street has led to an increase of traffic and nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas, whose level in the air is four and half times higher (180 µg per square meter) than the European target (40 µg per square meter). 

What goes into the atmosphere is not the only thing environmentalists worry about.Many of them are also questioning what goes into our shopping bags. Terms like eco, ethical, sustainable fashion, recycle and upcycle have become part of this century’s lifestyle vocabulary. But ecologists claim that a green culture or lifestyle does not mean environmental friendly behavior. 

So how is the fashion world helping the planet? 

Vivienne Westwood, mother of mainstream English punk, joined the ethical cause in 2005 when she published the “Active Resistance” manifesto. In the text, available online, a conversation between characters like Pinocchio, Aristotle, Alice, and Icarus concludes that “the most important thing is to love our mother, Earth.” After the manifesto, Westwood became one of the spokespeople for sustainable fashion. She writes: 

“The most important thing about the manifesto is that it is a practice. If you follow it, your life will change. In the pursuit of culture you will start to think if you change your life, you change the world.” 

For Molly Scott Cato, British green economist, turning the world into a more sustainable habitat can be achieved in three ways. First is being concerned with economics as well as social justice and with protecting the planet. Second is related to overcoming the supply and demand mechanism to give people only what they need. Last is the “what goes around comes around” philosophy, also known as recycling. 

“The main problem with eco this and that - she says in an email - is that they tend not to address the central problem of over-consumption.”

Cato adds: “In my mind eco-fashion would involve refurbishing old clothes rather than making new ones. I think the whole concept of fashion may arise from the need to create demand to stimulate a capitalist economy.”

“[People] like nothing more than a nice, shiny (and yes, often plastic) carrier bag, full of new clothes,” says Tamsin Blanchard. The Daily Telegraph Magazine style director recognizes the need of a more responsible fashion behavior. In the very first pages of her book, Green is the New Black, she writes: “Lately the whole business has started to look kind of ugly…”

Blanchard does not deeply embark into the business of production and cheap overseas labour but gives easy-to-apply suggestions to decrease consumption and be more responsible shoppers.On one side the fashion writer suggests to rely on second hand clothes. Wannabe green fashioners visiting the UK can rely on 9,500 charity retails, eBay and vintage boutiques. For anyone able to interrupt the shopping momentum, another option is to revitalize the closet by upcycling, literally updating clothes you already have and reducing the production of raw material.

More information:
Active Resistance
Scott Cato
Green is the New Black
UK charity shops

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