In Juliet Schor's book Plentitude, she discusses the economic down turn of the 2008 economic crash. She begins chapter two by stating, "Before the great crash of 2008, the world economy went on a spending spree unlike any in human history. The combination of sheer population (6.7 billion) and the emergence of a global middles class with money to spend resulted in a truly gargantuan scale of consumption (25)." Schor goes on to explain why there was such a huge boom in consumption. She begins by first looking at the average per-person spending. In the last few decades personal spending has risen greatly. Since 1990 there has been a 300 percent increase for furniture and household goods, 80 percent for apparel and 15-20 percent for vehicles, housing, and food (26). This increase in per-person spending has led up to the great 2008 crash. So the question is why has there been such an increase in consumption practices over the decades? Schor explains that among wealthy countries and consumers that products have become so abundant and lifestyles so comfortable that the use of goods to meet basic needs is often overshadowed by their roles as symbolic communicators (27). The symbolic meaning of commodities has become more important than the objects themselves. No longer are consumers looking for a sustainable, reliable product, but they are instead looking to use commodities as status symbols. This of course leads to the consumption of more and more goods because symbolic consumption relies heavily on fashion and novelty according to Schor (27). Schor calls this process of buying more products and turning them over quickly the materiality paradox.
I want to discuss Schor's section of chapter 2, titled Fast Fashion: The Case of Apparel. In this section Schor goes in depth on just how the clothing industry has contributed so greatly to the incline in consumption practices. Schor begins by discussing how clothes in the past used to be high priced commodities and therefore they had long and varied lives. She gives the example of a dress worn for a special occasion. It would first be worn for the occasion and then segue into an everyday outdoor piece, then for indoor sociability, and eventually be worn for domestic chores (28). In other houses these garments might turn into quilting squares or used as a rag. This is not the case however in more recent years. Clothing prices have declined greatly and so the accumulation of more and more clothing is made possible (29). In more recent years the lives of apparel has become quite ephemeral. The fashion industry has been the main cause of these short lasting commodities. Every year there is a new style and even every few months you will need to purchase new clothing because if you do not then you are not with the times. Schor states that consumers have come to expect low prices and frequent design change (30). Consumers are able to "indulge their tastes for novelty" (30). No longer is there a need for durable clothing, instead there is cheap clothing to be purchased in abundance, there has been a shift from quality to quantity, and the more you can purchase the more symbolic meanings you are able to display, therefore asserting your societal status. Fashion conscience thinking has led consumers to become wasteful, over-consuming shoppers. This section struck me the most because it is so identifiable. As a consumer you feel the pressure to buy into these styles and fashions because it is all too easy to use clothing as symbolic portrayals of who you are. Schor brings to light the huge effect that the fashion industry has on spending practices. Their needs to be a shift back to more sustainable clothing and a re-valuing of durable long lasting apparel.