It came as no surprise to see the global madness that ensued when H&M stores opened their doors to rabid customers seeking a purchase of the Balmain and H&M collaboration. Or any garment at that judging by the mindless running. Don't get me wrong; I also enjoy fashion and the high of a well-timed buy but at the expense of my dignity and your safety? No, just no. How no one received a coat hanger to the eye, a stomp on the neck or choked on a Balmain bead dislodged from its host jacket is mind blowing. You must have seen the photographs or video footage? Don't worry, it can easily be confused with a wild battle scene from MadMax Fury Road: I swear I saw a woman wielding chrome spray paint and a flame-throwing guitar.
In the global pecking order we like to believe that we are at the top and the reason we are there is because of our superior brains and civilised behaviour. LOL. What I have learnt is this: you can't hide what you really are. This behaviour is firmly in our DNA and no matter how sophisticated we try and act (brunch, anyone?) there are actions that will give us away. Sex, periods and pregnancy rightly remind us that we are mammals; a fight over a dress shouldn't. This behaviour spreads across social media demanding 'likes' as wearers peacock their trophies. Once these items are displayed on social media will they be worn again? Hell no. An item shared once is no longer a valuable entity.
I distinctly remember visiting an H&M store a mere 48 hours after the Lanvin collection landed back in 2011. It was a disturbing and rather unsurprising scene. Lonely, lacklustre dresses were left rocking to themselves on racks. Billowy blouses lay deflated and stepped on like the trampled bodies crushed during the opening rush. It was too late for the faux fur jacket; just leave it on the floor. The quietest corner of the store and the staff were not interested either. It was the barren aftermath of the aforementioned MadMax scene. Brands had bored consumers on their hands already.
Fashion journalist Suzy Menkes says that fashion is crashing; she's right and it's taking humanity with it. I want to be that person who says, "Oh they are just having fun, what's the harm you miserable git?" But unfortunately my conscience won't let me so I have to become a pseudo-sociologist to calm it down. The speed with which we live our lives and demand that others fill it is exhausting. Menkes rightly points out that designers have everything but time. The demand of working all day, every day, to satisfy the world's cravings is frightening. The pressure to be relentlessly creative is terrifying. In the same chain of production the garment worker in a developing country is asked to smash out hundreds of dresses in record time too, for little pay, long hours, and in absurdly dangerous conditions. The designer is at one end and the garment worker at the other and both are asked for their blood and guts to be wrung out onto the cutting room floor. Just so we can wear an item once and discard it. The pressures we place on those that are the sturdy framework of the industry are showing signs of collapsing.
We ain't nothing but mammals baby but when will our smart brains finally understand that we cannot sustain these consumer habits. Our planet cannot sustain our greed. Now here comes my socialist, hippie bit: wouldn't it be great if we could harness this insatiable energy and enthusiasm and use it to satisfy the world's energy consumption? Or visit our lonely neighbour or provide shelter for homeless refugees? If we replace the level of drive we have for what we want in to getting things that people need, maybe I wouldn't need to write this complicated sentence. And the side effect might just be a healthier planet.