One size fits all in McFashion
From Gap to H&M, our high streets are full of the same shops, selling the same cheap chic: it is the clothing version of fast food. According to Michelle Lee, a leading US fashion writer, we are consumers of McFashion and fashion has begun to resemble fast food. Fast, disposable, easy, non-intimidating, entertaining and homogenous. Just as McDonald's has taken over the globe, so too have mass-market retailers succeeded in spreading a similar message: predictability in fashion. Just as we can enter a McDonald's in Dallas or Munich, Antwerp or London and order the same meal, we can enter an H&M in each city and buy the same shirt. Nearly every major retail chain today represents McFashion. They may not carry the exact same merchandise, but they convey the same message of consistency. McFashion is bland and down-market, affordable and abundant. It allows the consumer to fit in with similar social groups, but the individualism disappears. It is now possible to buy cheap, fashionable clothes in the supermarket. Asda sells low-price George-brand tank tops and shorts along with the cat food and toothpaste. Soon, you will be buying your Levi's and Calvin's there too. These days, shopping for clothes is a manufactured experience. Retailers know consumers are impatient and in store hassle can turn away valuable cash. Executives have brainstormed every aspect of the shopping experience and nothing is left to chance. It is not only the clothes that feel safe but also the experience of shopping. While shopping at a designer boutique requires a certain level of sophistication, at a McFashion store it doesn't matter how cool you are. Furthermore, designer and mass-market worlds have collided, so consumers are opted in believing they are engaging in high style on the high street. The fact McFashion chains thrive is because they are cheap. No one expects to find the highest-quality merchandise there. More likely, they are surprised when they find something that is well made. Retail therapy is a lot more justifiable if the clothes are cheap. We cannot help but view these inexpensive clothes as somewhat disposable. And dispose of them we do. We are bulimic shoppers - the fashion victim binges then throws up the unwanted garments shortly afterwards. Still, we feel little shame purchasing disposable trends at the rate we do. Twenty pounds on a shirt we will never weardoesn't trigger a guilty mindset compared to, for instance, an expensive meal that we are not hungry enough to finish. Our dwindling sense of culture isn't entirely the retailer's fault and we as consumers bear some of the blame. Retailers may make McFashion irresistible, but it can only survive because we buy into it. Just as McDonald's gradually blocks our arteries, too much McFashion gradually narrows our channels of creativity and individuality. It is McFashion's homogeneity that makes it desirable to many people in the first place. Just look at our American counterparts: 75 per cent of American men own a pair of Dockers khakis. One in five women's shoes in the US is sold by Nine West. Wal*Mart, the world's biggest retailer, sells 19 million pairs of women's jeans a year. At this rate McFashion stores will effectively push originality out of our closets. Eventually, we will forget that clothes can serve as a creative extension of ourselves and we will end up a society of outrageously boring dressers. For more info. Please refer to Fashion Victim: Our love-Hate relationship with Dressing, Shopping, and the Cost of Style by Michelle Lee, published by Broadway Books.