I have a very complicated relationship with Zara. I think of it as an ex-boyfriend that I have mixed feelings towards, since the breakup. Its been two years since I shopped there. While I am quite proud of weaning off fast fashion, I have to admit that I don’t hate it. I look at the beautiful things and the corresponding prices – it makes me smile. What stops me is the thought of sweatshops and quality that often disappoints. I have replaced Zara with second hand shopping. And yes, I am almost over it.
I have a confession. Every quarter, when I see the headlines ‘ Fast Fashion isn’t going anywhere. The owner of Zara got richer’, my head reads “so did I”. I own some stock. I invest in fashion and technology, the two industries I think I understand. I told myself it’s blood money but I haven’t gotten around to selling my stock / letting go of the investment. Before anyone attacks me, if you draw interest from your savings in any bank, I am pretty sure you did too. They diversify the portfolio and Zara has been a safe haven for investors for years. But do I feel good about it ? No. Not really.
I sometimes sneak a peak on the website. And I see things I liked on the runway at affordable prices. My relative owns the knock off of the Chloe Drew Bag in black. Every time I see it on her, I chant ‘thief’ in my head without realizing. The knock off of Celine’s Belt Bag is currently on sale for cheap. Its quite tempting. But the intellectual property theft is appalling. And it always reminds me of why I should never visit the website, ever !
Thirdly, the past.
I have three pieces from Zara that I currently own and adore. A leather jacket of my dreams. A blue rain coat that looks like the piece Sofia Coppola is wearing in this picture. And a wind breaker jacket in safari green. I am pretty sure there is nothing fast about the way I treat them. I have had them for years and worn them lots. I condition my leather jacket as necessary because I can’t bear to think of it getting ruined as it ages. I wash and wax my rain coat every season. The polyester safari jacket goes hiking/camping with me whenever I go. I have absolutely no intention of disposing them. If every shopper at Zara steered clear of stuff not made in Europe, learnt to identify reasonably decent quality pieces, stayed away from the exact knock offs ( do they make any original designs? ), purchased items that become outdated in a month’s time, … wouldn’t that be good ?
Fourth, mostly shitty quality.
90% of what I purchased from Zara fell apart after few washes. When I thought the cloth was good, the buttons came loose. After I re-sewed the buttons back, the seams came apart. Some pieces became asymmetric after a wash. I had a favorite red blouse became see through after ~15 washes. The shoes that they label as ‘leather’, only have leather uppers. Synthetic soles – big mistake. Finding natural fabrics is a treasure hunt. They had a line of handmade coats last winter. They turned out to be exact knock offs from the runway and the ‘thief’ chant in my head made me veto them all. It stopped being a feel good experience. Its not even a guilty pleasure. Its pure guilt.
Their website no longer has the ‘Made in’ information. I see some tags with ‘imported’, which is usually a way to cover up the use of sweatshops in Asia. Very few pieces get made outside Asia. What do I know of the conditions? Did they treat the textile waste before they dumped it ? I will sleep better if I know for sure. I can’t look cute at the expense of someone. Use the saved money to buy good food, grow my savings and live happily ever after, should I ?
I have choices in America, which I realize is a luxury. When I lived in India, I used to go to a tailor who ran his own tiny sweatshop. The cotton came from fields which employed children. There are a few places that weave the cloth and dye it in a sustainable manner. But its hard to control every step of the pipeline. I didn’t care back then, as long as I got a good deal. All this makes me rather thankful for having access to places like Everlane and eBay. It is not impossible to find something in my style how ever tight my budget. Its been two years since I purchased something at Zara. I don’t intend to go back. It wasn’t easy. And it’s still complicated.
Please share your fast fashion detox stories if you have any. Was it easy ? Is it still a struggle ? Do you go hunting in fast fashion stores for good quality pieces ? Is think this problem is all black and white ? Or do you think sweatshops are fine ?