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Few things capture the feeling of wearing a new garment. Whether it’s intended for special occasions or daily use, it has the quality of transcending you to the top of the world. Unfortunately, even if the garment is designed to enhance a variety of aspects of yourself, the industry is designed to ensure it’ll only do so temporarily.
Fashion is a world of dreams, able to create desires we didn’t know we had, materializing ideas from the wildest imaginations, while delivering them at speeds that seem to defy natural laws. But the industry does so by acting upon our planet as if we no longer need it, by reducing it to a mere enabler of business ambitions. Having already transcended our planetary boundaries, the fashion system shows no signs of slowing down its crusade on people and planet.
Clothing consumption is as easy and addictive as ever. With just a flick of our fingers we scroll through thousands of garments in an instant, powered by a set of algorithms designed to tell us what we need, that only become more refined by the day. The digitized world, combined with the reverence for convenience and speed, has fundamentally altered the manner in which we interact with the real one. And we are becoming increasingly desensitized to not just the true cost of our production and consumption practices, but also our immediate environment at large. Add to this our immersion in a never ending deluge of information and you quickly arrive at a recipe for mass-scale oblivion, allowing greenwashing to persevere and corporate malpractice to thrive.
It’s difficult to know where to start and who to hold accountable; the fashion system is complex and it depends on the interplay between consumers, producers, media, governments and financial stakeholders. All of these nodes are bound up under an overriding principle of short-term gains. And so long as this remains the case, the environment will always remain a secondary concern. If none of these actors are capable of taking drastic action at scale, then what’s left is us, individuals.
Knowing this. We have to turn the gaze inward and reflect on our own choices. But deciding to drastically change our consumption habits requires discipline and sacrifice as consumption has become inexorably linked to our way of living.
Essentially, fashion’s appeal primarily lies in the logo, and what it’s able to communicate: power, status, belonging or separation. With clothes functioning as social symbols, and a promise to transform us into a better version of ourselves, their value is dictated by the volatility of trends. This makes the relationship we have with our clothes unstable and fleeting, allowing a sudden shift in a trend to ruthlessly devalue everything that hangs in our wardrobes. Essentially, be it from a fast fashion brand or a luxury house, fashion is at its best when infused with an expiry date.
But like everything else, the current fashion system has the potential to change. Plenty of research has already stressed the importance of adjusting our relationship to clothes. It has been demonstrated that satisfaction can arise from the relationships to our clothes - not just their consumption. This can range from seemingly mundane activities such as hand-washing them to mending or altering them. “Shifting the emphasis from consumption to use” Kate Fletcher argues, creates a conversation beyond fashion as politics or economics, one that focuses on the everyday usefulness and satisfaction of clothes. Elizabeth Cline further argues that owning clothes does in fact involve a significant deal of emotion. A more sentimental relationship with the garments we own, and the heed for the unique histories that permeate their fabrics, may potentially override the autocratic grip the fashion industry has on us. “Creating a functioning wardrobe you can get a lot of use out of” she adds, is the central question for the future of sustainable fashion. But this starts with owning clothes we actually want to wear for years coming.
One of the best things you can do today is simply stop filling up your wardrobe again. This however, requires adopting both a mindset and certain skills that’ll enable you to get the most of the garments you currently own: from learning how to sew a button to taking a pair of shoes to get resoled. With this also comes adapting your idea of what a garment should cost; a garment with the potential to last is inevitably going to cost more than society has become accustomed to. So everytime we are confronted by the upfront cost of a well-made garment, we have to remind ourselves that it has the potential to outlast its lesser counterpart, offsetting its initial investment over time - if properly cared for. That doesn’t just save us money, but also the headache and time needed to constantly replenish our wardrobes with failing garments. And that in turn, should ultimately lead to a wardrobe, we utilize more, are prouder of, and that gives us satisfaction far beyond the action of buying the items in it.
All of this relates back to why ASKET. We exist to tackle an era of fast consumption. This is why we only have one, permanent collection. This is why we never do sales. This is why we close on Black Friday. And most recently, this is why we created The Impact Receipt. It’s an attempt to force the gaze towards the uncomfortable truth humanity finds itself in, that every consumption choice we make directly affects the ecology that surrounds us, which we’re ultimately co-dependant on.
It’s not about information for information’s sake. But to make sure it’s as accurate and as in line with the reality of our ecology as possible. Something as simple as an environmental receipt, undermines the fantasy world fashion is selling us and reconnects the garment with its true origin: our planet. Doing this, we hope to not only educate society about the resources necessary to make a simple T-Shirt, but also to fundamentally change the way we use it.
We can tell you to buy less clothes, but it won’t help unless we fundamentally change how we relate to them. Garments aren’t disposable, they don’t appear out of thin air - and they don’t magically disappear when we’re done with them. They carry stories of nature, craftsmanship and sacrifice - values that, when recognized, exceed the pleasure of simple consumption.
That recognition is in your hands.