OMANA: Consumerism, celebrity idolization pushes unethical fashion


Opinion Column: Left Brain, Right Brain

From movies to magazines to social media, it feels like the pressure to look perfect and dress like a fashionista is only rising. While celebrities have always had tremendous impact on consumerism, their impact is even more so today as more and more people fall in debt or become a slave to cosmetic surgeries and procedures, trying to keep up with this perfect, glamorous, "Insta" look. 

With the access we all have to seeing our favorite celebrities’ pictures comes the access of information we have available as to who and what they are wearing. Furthermore, the lighting and filters make their outfits even more appealing and we cannot help but want to look like pictures that amass millions of likes. 

But with this heightened attention to fashion has come an opportunity for fast fashion companies to make replicas of designer dresses, shoes and bags, at a fraction of the cost. Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Thing and Misguided are of the most notorious companies to replicate items worth thousands of dollars. But companies that make clothing for so cheap are not necessarily fashion vigilantes who want to help us look our best without blowing our entire paycheck. Documentaries like “The True Cost” shed light on fashion and how oftentimes, fast fashion clothing is sold for cheap because it is made in sweatshops where employees make little to nothing and work in dangerous conditions. 

While no one is in favor of this, the problem is often ignored among our materialism, and the pressure to be a consumer in our society leads us to pouring billions of dollars that feed companies that exploit the people of developing countries. 

Recently Kim Kardashian brought attention to fast fashion, but not because of this exploitation of people. Kardashian is suing Misguided, who replicated a gold dress which she posted to Instagram, because she is tired of seeing her dresses and outfits being replicated and sold on cheaper sites. Kardashian insists that doing this is unethical and disrespectful to the time, effort and creativity of designers. 

While fast fashion companies do need to put a stop to their inhumane practices, Kardashian completely misses the point and is quite hypocritical. At the end of the day it is about money more so than it is about fashion. Kardashian, and any wealthy, fashionable celebrity, who posts glamorous pictures online does nothing but contribute to the problem. This is not to say that one cannot dress in wealth, but to not see that normal people, with normal jobs and salaries, feel pressure to look fancy because of celebrities and therefore have no other choice than to buy at fast fashion brands, is ignorant. 

The Independent recently published an article that said “The Kardashians, while not single-handedly responsible, have also had a huge role to play in the existence of a fast fashion culture.” They go on to explain how being a “cultural juggernaut has its downsides” and that fast fashion is in fact “an industry which (Kim Kardashian) helped create.”

The Kardashians, and many celebrities, are trend-setters — what they wear, we want. Women, in particular, feel pressure to be beautiful and that pressure is often created and enforced by media and celebrity looks. Big lips, tiny waists, wigs and risque clothing have been inspired greatly by celebrities, but unlike them, we cannot all afford the price tags attached to the labels they represent. 

In fact, sometimes they even promote some of these companies. “Boohoo previously paired up with Kourtney Kardashian and Kylie Jenner’s now-ousted BFF Jordyn Woods on collaborations, but both were presumably paid handsomely for their efforts, and the company’s continued relationship with them is proof that it’s been a profitable partnership,” The Independent stated. Kim Kardashian’s hypocrisy covers this lawsuit and I cannot help but feel that she contributed entirely to fast fashion as well as does not understand the true crimes fast fashion brands commit. 

Fast fashion is an ethical problem that is not given the attention it deserves. Even when it is given attention, the criticism it is given is hypocritical just as much as it is superficial. I am guilty of shopping at fast fashion brands — a lot of us who cannot afford Balenciaga oversized tees, Gucci fanny packs or designer dresses are. Sustainable and ethical clothing comes at a high price and many of us would much rather shop at H&M or Zara than shop at Goodwill. While fast fashion is a problem, Kim Kardashian completely missed the point. She herself cannot understand what it is to be a person with a normal salary, living in a consumer society that is obsessed with appearances and materialism. She does not grasp the complexity of the the problem, which does not  revolve around her and famous designers — it is about the exploitation of poverty and people.

Breana Omana is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in political science. Her column, "Left Brain, Right Brain," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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