Hangovers can take you to bleak places and on a recent weekend I was transported to a scene akin to one of those hoarder TV shows from a channel on the fringes of digital television: I was surrounded by 10 black bin bags filled to the brim with my clothes. These weren't just any clothes, these were high street clothes.
After years of high street hoarding, I decided to edit my wardrobe, or let's be honest my floordrobe, which covered my entire bedroom floor. Fact fans: my room is the size of a tennis court. I know, bleak. I began in the spirit of Spring; I was looking to emerge reborn.
My post booze, binge binning resulted in me completely cutting (barely) one eighth of the wardrobe I had acquired during the four years I've lived in London, in which time my career in fashion magazines began. Confronted by these black bags piled high, some splitting at the sides, the maligned term "throwaway fashion" seemed to take on a whole new meaning. Some items still had the price tag attached, too. I had reached peak polyester.
If you are the type to get furious about left on light switches or unrecycled plastic cups, I plead with you to look away now as this next snippet does not make for environmentally friendly reading.
My washing pile had reached a height similar to Mount Everest and unlike George Mallory I managed to conquer it... by binning two sacks of clothes. If I didn't recall owning something it was unceremoniously chucked. There was no funeral for the floral shirt I wore once for an Instagram post - I have over 5000 followers who I don't want to bore by wearing the same thing twice - or the flared trousers I purchased for the seventies party I held an entire year ago and which remained unwashed. These two bags were not reborn at the local charity shop like the others, they were taken to an early grave thanks to the local bin men.
Ever since, I have been plagued by images akin to Toy Story 3 where the clothes take on human characteristics and cling onto each other in fear as they are poured into the local landfill, their ghosts destined to haunt me forevermore. If my fears came true, Scrooge would have nothing on me.
But what is it about the High Street brands that keeps me coming back for more, on a weekly, nay, daily basis? It's their fast turn around of trends, it's my need to constantly look top notch in an instant digital and visual world. And anyone who tells you they would rather buy an excessively priced (in my opinion) designer item over its budget-friendly, high street cousin, is a liar.
There's expert proof that I'm not alone in my need for constant newness for Instagram's sake. Jamie Merriman, analyst at Sanford Bernstein told the FT last year that the rise of selfie-taking and outfit sharing on Instagram could be responsible for millennials (at 25, I'm one of them) shopping.
Meanwhile Topshop's global marketing and communications director Sheena Sauvaire pointed out that "this girl [or boy, in my case] will spend less on certain items, but she’ll still desire a great jacket, or a great top from Topshop. But she’s seeing that as the new luxury.”
Admittedly, it's quite a turnaround the earlier predictions that my generation would be the altruistically minded yet. In the dizzy pre-Instagram days, over a third of young people said they'd only buy something if it was "necessary" according to a Cassandra study. Now, "necessary" is probably better defined as "saw it, need it" with 77% of us in the UK buying something which we saw on social media, according to Demandware.
I also wear high street clothes like a badge of honour because nothing gives me greater satisfaction than seeing someone's mouth drop wide open when I reply with, "it's New Look, babe." "Sorry about your bank balance" forms a recurring part of my internal monologue.
I would love to say that purging my satorial sins was life changing. That I was left feeling enlightened- as well as lighter of wardrobe. That maybe wearing an item once was indeed frivolous and that maybe my clothes- whether £10.99 from H&M or £1099 from Mr Porter- deserved some dignity, or a hanger at least.
But it hasn't changed my life. My desire for of-the-moment pieces and the absolute necessity for variation on my Instagram account continues to take hold. I'm stilling buying designer trends refashioned into the finest man-made materials by the sackful.
So the space created by the departed has been quickly filled with short shorts for summer and the tenth 'must-have' high street bomber jacket I spotted whilst doing my shopping editor rounds.
Speaking of severe social media syndrome, I even made 'The Great Clothing Cull of 2016' into a 360 degree experience for my followers by documenting it on Snapchat and Whatsapping my pals pics of the ever growing mountain of clothes. There was some shock, some major horror and messages of relief from my housemates who haven't had space on the communal shoe rack since our tenancy began in 2014.
I suppose one upside shoppers in my local Leyton charity shops can now walk away dressed in an array of printed trousers, questionable shirts I obsessed over for the grand total of 5.5 minutes and a yellow suit ideal for anyone looking to dress up as Jim Carrey circa The Mask. I like to think that maybe after all, my obsession with fast fashion is actually the gift that keeps on giving. Maybe, maybe.
[By: Josh Newis-Smith ] [ Telegraph UK ] [ Read More ]