It would be reasonable for The Guardian to charge Lucy Siegle for having printed this column for it’s an extended whine of “GissaJob”. The problem being, you see, that someone has made a documentary about fast fashion. A documentary that does not agree with Lucy’s shtick that fast fashion is the very terror of the Earth and something that must be banned. Or changed. Managed. Done as Lucy says it must be.
Apparently growing plants to make clothes uses water, d’ye see, and Lucy’s not heard of that water recycling system we generally call clouds.
Which is, when you come to think of it, rather fun. Using rain to grow trees to burn woodchips in Drax is terribly recycling and green, using rain to grow plants is not. Go figure.
But more than the failure of her basic worldview there’s this:
Let’s be honest, I did not enjoy the show. A more substantive archive of my distress can be found on Twitter, but the short version is that I’m disturbed that this horror show of turbo-charged consumerism was ever commissioned.
Well, yes, because there’s a TV journalist – hey, she’s even done a documentary! – out there who has the correct views on fast fashion.
This is ironic because, at the risk of sounding sneery, this is one of the most cynical pieces of TV I have ever seen. In tone and content, this series is very similar to Breaking Fashion, the BBC3 show from last year, which followed fast fashion brand In the Style.
If our hero were just funded to do another documentary then the tone would be very different indeed.
The problem is that we’re at a point when this is not good enough. The global fashion industry’s annual environmental and social assessment, the Pulse report, led by Boston Consulting, concluded last year that sustainability efforts are “not moving fast enough to counterbalance the harmful impact of the fashion industry’s rapid growth”. It said: “Projections suggest that by 2030 the global apparel and footwear industry’s [output] will have grown by 81% to 102m tons”, which amounts to “an unprecedented strain on planetary resources”.
Gosh, I wonder whether anyone will heed the call to make this the right way the second time?
Throughout this supply chain the true environmental cost of fashion production seems to be all but ignored by brands. To produce a documentary at this point, without examining this industry-wide issue, is perverse.
Who, just who, could rid society of this perversity?
My dream is that TV’s gatekeepers get the message. Uncritical love letters to planet-trashing systems such as this are no longer ratings winners. Instead, could commissioners use TV’s huge power to help us decipher the environmental and social impact we are creating?
Who could possibly present such a show? Could it be Our Lucy offering herself up?
As to why there’s all this falafel about fast fashion it’s because the working class are getting upitty and now have a change of clothes in which they are indistinguishable from their betters. And that, obviously, will never do.
“There are three cankers which in process of time will eat up the whole Commonwealth of England, if speedy reformation be not had: namely dainty fare, gorgeous buildings, and sumptuous apparel.”
Public Health England is taking care of the first, the modern planning system deals with the second and Lucy is offering herself up to rid us of the third.
“The inhabitants of England go bravely in apparel changing fashions for every day for no cause so much as to delight the eyes of their whorish mates withall, and to enamour the minds of their fleshly paramours.”….”millions of suits of apparel lying rotting by them”….the sin of Pride is in “wearing ….apparel more gorgeous, sumptuous and precious that our state, calling or condition of life requireth.” it is “very hard to know who is noble, who is worshipful, who is a Gentleman and who is not.”
Philip Stubbes in his Anatomie of Abuses from 1583. About which Michael Pye (in his excellent The Edge of the World) says:
He was, of course, quite right as well as being wrong. Clothes were no longer decreed by court or convent, except at court and in convents. Something had unsettled some perfectly acceptable social order that Stubbes was almost sure he once knew, and clothes showed that. Class, position, power and money could not longer be taken quite for granted.
In doing so he helped set the agenda for a thousand moralistic outbursts, a thousand secular sermons against fashion and the breakdown of comforting, solid hierarchy and the unkind way the young sometimes confuse the old about their gender. He taught hacks and preachers that they could always howl against anyone wearing fresh, unfamiliar clothes, that there was virtue in wearing what your father wore. He made change and choice seem like sin.
The proles are getting above their station again and Ms. Siegle is just chewing at the bit to be able to give us this generation’s reason why we must have those sumptuary laws.