Why Is Fashion in Crisis?

Buying clothes used to be a ritual. You go to the mall with friends, spend most of the time window shopping, try something on and debate whether it is the right one, stop for a cup of coffee, and perhaps buy some clothes on the way too.

Much more than matching a garment to a physique, it was about the social ritual and the fulfillment of an emotional need.

However, tech giants such as Amazon and Alibaba have sent their long virtual tentacles to revolutionize shopping for clothes as we know it, turning it into another swiping experience. Today, you just have to snap your fingers and the clothes of your choice, at the right size and color, are already making their way to your house.

By the end of last year, more than 1,875 fashion stores in the U.S. had announced closure, and about 10,000 more stores are projected to close this year – 53% more than the number of closures during the financial crisis of 2008.

And yet, the evolution of shopping is only a superficial layer of what is happening. We, as human beings, are evolving as well.

At the core of our evolution is the engine of human desire, which drives all our choices and preferences, including what clothes we wear. In general, we can divide all our desires to two groups: bodily desires such as food, sex, and shelter, and social desires, such as status, honor and power.

“The evolution of shopping is only a superficial layer of what is happening. We, as human beings, are evolving as well.”

So what is the nature of our desire for clothing and fashion and how is it evolving?

On the one hand, clothing belongs to our bodily desires: we need clothes to keep our bodies warm and comfortable, for which our pajamas actually do a great service. But at the same time, our clothes are also our social calling card: There were times when only kings could have custom-tailored clothes, times when grandkids inherited their grandparents’ clothes, and don’t forget professional dress codes which stayed with us to this day.

Fashion transforms and adapts itself according to the evolution of human desire, and so it reflects the desires of society as a whole. And where is our desire headed these days? It is looking for a more inner fulfillment.

That is why it is becoming increasingly challenging for advertisers to sell us the illusion of unattainable beauty. They invest billions trying to market the idea that you are a class B member of society if you haven’t purchased the latest coveted brand. But this is beginning not to work as they are losing their grip on our desire.

“Fashion transforms and adapts itself according to the evolution of human desire, and so it reflects the desires of society as a whole. And where is our desire headed these days? It is looking for a more inner fulfillment.”

Many millennials, for instance, are not buying into the story anymore. They prefer to wear something plain and comfy, reject labels and brands, and mostly want their apparel to be affordable. Likewise, the aspiration to wear expensive clothes from prestigious brands is fading all over the world.

Our desire is developing to a qualitatively new level. The fulfillment we look for is less apparent and more internal, less material and more spiritual. The younger generation may not know exactly what they’re looking for, but they’re beginning to sense that it’s not in their external appearance.

Driven by the qualitative development of human desire, new social norms and values are gradually forming. What used to be respected and prestigious yesterday is losing its value today. Thus, fashion as we know it today will eventually disappear. We will no longer strain ourselves to wear clothes that prioritize social acceptance over convenience. We will gradually find that our hearts are the center of attention, and that will become the new global fashion.

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