The most ‘sustainable’ piece of clothing isn’t made of recycled fabric or sewed with a wind-powered sewing machine. The most environmentally friendly product is the one already in your closet, that you can proudly wear year after year, without buying something new every season. Unfortunately, this is not how the fashion industry works.
PERCEIVED OBSOLESCENCE, THE DEFINING FEATURE OF FASHION.
Tech companies are notorious for forcing you to upgrade, but Fashion, more than any other industry in the world, embraces obsolescence as a primary goal, working incessantly with the advertising industry to reduce the desirability of past seasons’ products, rendering them obsolete by perception rather than by function.
In order to encourage continuous consumption, the fashion industry bombards us with the latest styles: what’s ‘on trend’ this season, what we should be buying, what celebrities are wearing. As consumers, we are exposed to the never-ending product renewal through collections of famous clothing and footwear brands, which last less every time. This psychological warfare has the obvious objective to make us feel out-of-fashion, inadequate, so we buy more. Perceived obsolescence works purely on a psychological level. It plays on our need for acceptance within our peer group and desire to remain current and maintain our social status.
DESIGNED FOR THE DUMP.
But that’s not it. While in the past the fashion industry aimed to manufacture quality goods that lasted a lifetime, mainstream fashion now intentionally mass-produces poorly constructed and finished products, using cheaper fabrics and materials. Products are purposely designed to wear out, lose shape or fall to pieces easily. So, we are forced to buy more.
Inbuilt impermanence can be ensured by using inappropriate fabric, or coarse stitching on delicate materials, thus accelerating the wearing of holes during washing. Many garments are made from a blend of two fabrics, such as cotton and polyester, which shrink differently in the wash, resulting in clothing becoming asymmetrical in shape. Buttons, that used to be carefully stitched, now easily fall off, while buttonholes are often haphazardly made, which leads to fraying and loose threads. Overstitching, which is stitching along the edge of fabric to prevent it from fraying, is also rarely finished off in modern clothing - it's just a running seam that is whipped off the machine at the end. And precisely because these things are poorly made, perversely we are compelled to buy more of them.
A THROWAWAY SOCIETY.
Our modern culture has become synonymous with throwaway culture. Most products today are not made to be repaired, or the replacement parts are either too expensive or not available; when something doesn’t work, things are cheap enough that it’s often less expensive to toss whatever doesn’t work and buy a new one. That means manufacturers can get away with producing clothing whose lifespan is often just one season - and sometimes just a few washes. In fact, most clothes don't seem to last for more than a few wears these days, no matter how carefully we look after them.
The reality is that planned product obsolescence in a world with finite resources is morally indefensible. The collateral damage of over-consumption of clothes, shoes, and accessories is the piling up of an inconceivable amount of waste that ends up being incinerated or dumped into landfills season after season. When it takes up to 150,000 litres of water to build a car and 7,000 to produce a pair of jeans, designing products so that they quickly cease to be useable is not only a deception of the consumer but also utterly irresponsible towards the environment.
TO BUY CHEAP IS EXPENSIVE.
Consumers are also to blame. Since the late Nineties, ‘fast fashion’ products have become an easy object of desire for compulsive shopping and a source of waste of resources. Consumers have embraced short-lived fashion trends and the low-priced disposable clothes which came with it. But in doing so they haven’t necessarily saved money in the long run. On the contrary frenetic consumption seems to have been equal or heavier than purchasing clothing of better quality.
But could life be different? What if we decided to surround ourselves with beautiful, well-made things that lasted forever, instead of ‘for now’ objects that soon need replacing? With ‘sustainable’ clothing and footwear becoming more readily accessible, if consumers are willing to pay that bit extra upfront, they could really reap the benefits in the long term. Buying high-quality products, which are designed to stand the test of time, is, however, a viable option only if the products offered are not only durable but purposely designed to be timeless in style; future-proof rather than trend-driven. Truly, timeless products that are made to last are the perfect antidote to the endless trends and throwaway fast fashion culture.
SLOWING DOWN THE FASHION CYCLE.
At UNTAMED STREET we have decided to embrace the challenge: we strive to change the way people engage with high-quality products, creating an answer to the growing trend of inflated pricing, built-in obsolescence and perma-sale mindset. Our footwear is designed and produced to be one of the most sustainable and durable products on the planet. We are concerned with quality and style, not trends. We handmake our shoes and boots to last season after season, to become even more comfortable and beautiful wear after wear.
We don’t chase new fashion trends or let the market dictate our offering. Instead, we focus on generating style-agnostic collections. We aim at slowing down the ever-accelerating world of fashion, by offering timeless designs that are made to stand the test of time. Never losing relevance, season after season.
* * *
At UNTAMED STREET every shoe is made to last and age beautifully, and can be easily resoled, so you can buy less of them. The least eco-friendly shoe is the one you have to replace every year. We make shoes without expiration date.