Speaking the unspoken: planned obsolescence as the evil


Planned Obsolescence 

Two kinds of evil quality killers

Back in the early 2000's owned my first phone with polyphonic ringtones. A Motorola V220. Foldable and with a incredibly shitty camera. Heavy like a stone, but I was the happiest cell phone owner in 5th grade. The same year I was really proud of my flared jeans. The usual procedure meant to go shopping with my grandma, who back in the days worked at a fashion retailer. She had style and loved dressing me up. And I loved being dressed up by her. But within the shortest amount of time, things changed. The phone ran out of battery within less than some hours and the floral prints on my flared jeans were not so trendy anymore.

Nowadays I believe in what Forbes has reported on in 2015 (check the article on UNIQLO here):

Planned obsolescence. 

With the rise of fast fashion, the industry has and still is focussing on quantity instead of quality. Intentional poor quality leads to more consumption and higher sales in return. Garments break after having worn them 21 times. That's what Zara has been deliberately planned with.

Planned obsolescence has first been introduced in other industries. In the 1920's the US economy was hit by the Great Depression. As a result, the car industry reacted with technical planned obsolescence. Cars were build intentionally with lower quality parts, to increase consumption. The life span of a car tremendously decreased and people quickly bought new ones. Different from technical obsolescence is stylistic obsolescence. Often the case in the fashion industry, trends counteract longevity of items and work with seasons. My flared jeans have been hit by the trend of skinny jeans within an eye blink. But a decade later, I know how to work against planned obsolescence. 

Just don't give a fuck about trends. 

I know this sounds incredibly slow and hippyish, but find your own style and invest in quality, not quantity. Whenever I shop, I keep my whole closet in mind and try to visualise how a new item can fit into my closet. That item should serve two of my needs: the quality and timelessness to last another five years. that counteracts technical and stylistic obsolescence. And if I ever feel weak and need to chase a trend, I invest in second hand items or vintage. Because trends always come back. Last year I've invested in a pair of Kings of Indigo flared jeans. Because I missed those flairs from back in the days. And I know that I will be more than happy to wear these organic cotton jeans proudly for the next years.

Arguments for fast fashion?

Even as a activist for slow fashion and living, I have to admit the following: yes, also fast fashion can last. The number one argument to a more sustainable closet is probably based on the longevity (or rather short-evity) of fast fashion. Mass produced clothes are worn ten times before they break. Big corporates such as Inditex (with it's brand Zara) or the H&M corporate play with planned obsolescence. In reality though, this may not always be the case. A great example of what I mean is the following: I've been wearing a H&M mustard yellow sweater for ages. Bought in a sale for less than 20€, it is still part of my winter essentials. I remember pictures of the sweater when I was dating my first love. 10th grade. Hence, this sweater is at least a decade old! And besides having the yellow version, I've also bought it in red and beige. 

Take care of your items. Despite the fact that fast fashion has been produced with lower quality, it is our responsibility to treat the items just as good as slow fashion. Wear them responsibly, wear them proudly. Wash them less, wash them right.

Planned obsolescence fuels consumption in a morally indefensible way. It forces us into capitalism. Both, technical and stylistic obsolescence are methods of the second most polluting industry to fuel their business model. We as consumers can work against it, by being aware of it. Treat your garments right and fight back.