Thursday, June 06, 2013

"A super smart investment"

There's this thing - not new, but not that old - of companies asking consumers to purchase less, and in doing so, increasing their own profits. First, in 2011, Patagonia, and now Cuyana, which appears to make rich-hippie resortwear. And nothing says investment piece you'll wear for years like a white tank top. (An $150 leather tote bag is actually called "a super smart investment.") Says their "philosophy" page:

We want to love every item in our closets. We want to revel in the tactile beauty of the world’s finest materials and marvel at consummate craftsmanship. We believe in style, not fashion; in quality, not quantity. We celebrate fewer, better things and strive to live a life of inspired simplicity.
Which... I suppose I partly agree with. WWPD's cheapness philosophy also dictates only buying clothes you're thrilled with,  and not owning too much. As for "the world's finest materials," I think I'll settle for something non-toxic (as much as one can ever know this about anything; in an ideal world the state, and not the individual consumer, would sort this out) and not itchy. And, alas, if the thing isn't already fraying or coming apart at the seams at the store, it's craftmanned enough for me. (With one exception, because it's no fun being a purist. It's gone up in price, looks like!) But the overall idea that one ought to only buy what one is excited to own, and not just kind of accumulate stuff for the heck of it, is sensible. Rules like, are you still thinking about whichever item a week later. Fair enough.

So why does this not sit right? Because if you're selling stuff, you want people to buy stuff. Because obviously someone who's buying a bathing suit coverup - however timeless - isn't only buying that. This company would like you to buy only their goods? Well so would every company - that's capitalism, not altruism.

Because this is about a brand capitalizing on consumers' altogether reasonable wariness about how their fast fashion is made, as if one is suddenly a good person for buying this over that. As if there's blood on your hands... unless you buy this.

Because... well, because it's specifically vacation clothing, and with really, really upscale vacations implied, photographed. One is left with the impression that those who jet between resorts worldwide - but, like, the really idyllic ones, untouched by the touristy masses - are somehow more ethical. Wouldn't they be even more ethical if they weren't burning through all that jet fuel? Oh no - the Cuyana shopper is more ethical than the Old Navy shopper, or the Kmart shopper, or - horrors - the Walmart shopper.

Or maybe I'm too cynical. (It wouldn't be the first time!) Maybe it's a good thing - and not an equivalent of greenwashing - if companies promote themselves on the basis of selective shopping. Commenters, prove me wrong.

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