Thursday, October 27, 2011

I, for one, welcome our Uniqlo overlords

All that junky clothing sold as "fast fashion" to Westerners, maybe labeled "designed in L.A./Paris/Japan," but made in China. It all falls apart after one wash.

Except that it doesn't. If you don't treat your "fast fashion" purchases - stuff from H&M, Zara, what Brits I believe refer to as "high street" chains - as disposable, you don't generally have to dispose of them quickly. That famous European emphasis on "quality" we hear so much about doesn't mean they're buying stuff made in Italy or better-constructed or who knows. They're buying the same crap as we are, but hanging it up carefully in their closets, not piling it onto a chair for their miniature poodle to use as chew toys. When it comes to much of what renders clothing unwearable - stains, too tight, too loose - has nothing to do with construction. And in terms of durability, this is where the very cheap and very expensive come full circle -- the dainty silk-chiffon blouse will hold up (to a determined miniature poodle) no better than the synthetic version from H&M. With few exceptions (handbags, shoes) whatever it is won't last for years - or you won't wear it for years, unless out of economic necessity in which case you'll do so if it's from Prada or Kmart. Unless you want to wear it for years, in which case it will last that long. I have, as I've mentioned here in the past when this topic has come up, clothing from the junkiest of chains that is plenty old and that looks fine.

Alexandra Jacobs (sadly not Mike Albo or Cintra Wilson - why did they have to leave???) Critical Shopped at the new flagship Uniqlo, and this is what she found:

A white Heattech shirt, meanwhile, made me look like a bratwurst. The much-anticipated tingle never materialized, but I did see a split at the elbow-skin, a discovery corresponding with some early adopters’ criticisms that Uniqlo’s fabrics do not stand up to repeated wear. I would counter that perhaps the most modern attitude toward these garments of the future, the logical descendants of 1960s paper dresses, is to watch nonchalantly in real time as they biodegrade right off your body. (If you can’t wait that long, the company also has a recycling program.) As with so much these days — jobs, relationships — one just can’t get too attached.
I've seen the Heattech shirts on the rack, and could predict the bratwurst effect before even having to try one on. But at a crazed opening of a new chain store, does it really say anything so profound that one garment was less than 100%? What I think is, Alexandra Jacobs wanted to find evidence that stuff from a cheap store like this is poorly-made. Do reviewers of high-end boutiques even look for tears in the stuff? I'm thinking not.

Meanwhile, I do feel a bit ridiculous coming to the chain's defense. It has as of late taken over New York, advertised on every available surface in Manhattan, and even brought its tempting presence to a spot so very close to Penn Station that even if I avoid the one on Lower Broadway on my trips back to NYU... Susan "OWS" Sarandon is in their ads, which identify her as "actor" and "mother," leading me to wonder why it's not socially acceptable to call her an "actress," yet why not just call her a "parent," leading me to think maybe I misdirect some of these gender-analytic skillz from time to time. Uniqlo doesn't need me. They don't need me to point out that cashmere sweaters are about $50 at the 34th Street branch. They don't, but there you go. They don't pay me, but maybe they should.


Britta said...

If it was white, it would have made her look like a weisswurst, not a bratwurst, but I digress.

/sausage pedantry

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Unless it was so filthy from having been manhandled by all the filthy Herald Square tourists that it had turned a bratwurst shade.