Fast fashion is like fast food. Goes down great and then doesn't feel so hot.
First, a little anecdote from Elizabeth Cline's eye-opening book, Overdressed: "A few years ago a mass discount retailer ran a commerical featuring a fashion student named Lindsay [Ed. Note: not me], who chirps, 'I never wear the same thing twice!' This retailer would like us to believe cash-strapped college students should buy a new piece of clothing for every single day of the year."
A few years later, this same retailer started referencing their customers as "maxxanistas," equating "fashonista" with shopping for cheap, trendy clothes. Just as a hamburger was once a special treat to be enjoyed at a local diner and is now a commodified staple, each piece of clothing in someone's wardrobe used to be well-preserved for a specific purpose and is now tossed onto an ever-growing pile of stuff.
We are now a country in which people buy 20 billion garments per year. Fast fashion (which essentially means clothes that are made quickly, delivered to stores even faster, and sold for super low prices, all meant to encourage increased sales) has grown exponentially in the last five years. As companies like Zara and H&M have proliferated, other companies have had to change to keep up. In our time in the industry, we've gone from delivering product once per quarter to once per week and have lowered prices to encourage customers to buy more pieces. 25 years ago people bought an average of 34 items a year; that's since doubled. Clothing that cost $100 in 1993 costs $59 today. The only other thing that's gotten cheaper is oil, and well, that's a post for another day.
We've conservatively estimated that the two of us have had a hand in making over 50 million pieces of clothes in our career. 50 million! We've also each seen the prices for our goods decrease every season both in what we pay to make them and what our customers pay us for them. (And this is not because we've discovered a magically less expensive formula to make clothes.) We have a long way to go to make up for that but we're trying.
Here are some of the ways that we've set up Olen to be different:
1. Babies don't need fast fashion. They need great, well-made, safe basics.
2. You won't find us delivering new styles on a weekly basis. We believe in designing beautiful prints that double as wearable art and issuing them on a seasonal basis.
3. We need to finish the product lifecycle. When you're done with one of our pieces, send it on to a new home. If it's worn out its welcome, recycle it.
So this holiday season, let's slow down. Buy, but buy thoughtfully. Share. Donate. Do things differently.
The Olen Fam
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