It turns out that New York is perhaps the hardest place to be undergoing shopping-addiction recovery. This is not a city where restraint and minimalism are encouraged. Manhattan is a place where you can have whatever you want, if you can pay for it. New York is not the place to be if you are a fashion addicted consumerist on a minimal budget. The other day, as I eyed a woman carrying a black Hermes Birkin bag up Fifth Avenue I heard myself think, “why can’t I be her?!”. Ugggggggh, shudder. I mentally slapped myself right then and there. And then last night, I did something utterly cringe worthy. I complied with a chain mail email that claimed if I sent the email along to five people I would be blessed by the financial abundance angel. Judge away. god knows I would.
After four months in New York I have seen both extremities of the fashion spectrum. I’ve watched on in horror as women drop $5 000 in one go on a bag without blinking, and I’ve watched young devotees scour thrift stores for affordable style. The contradiction in accessibility in this city has made me wonder, Would I really want to be able to have it all in an instant?
Believe it or not, I think fashion is best in small doses. Lately I’ve found myself caught up in the race to experience it in big doses, and it hasn’t been fun in the slightest. Greed and consumerism have overshadowed the foundation of fashion: personal style. And as the rich and famous teach us over and over again, money doesn’t buy personal style (or happiness, as it turns out). So after giving myself a severe mental slapping for allowing myself to think I am anything but incredibly lucky, I vow to return to return my focus to what I’ve always found at the heart of fashion: self expression and personal style (which are accessible to everyone and have nothing to do with labels or price tags). The fashion industry is antagonistic and its fleetingness, its constant hurry towards the next best, the next style, the next season, the new, the avante-garde, the future, the up-and-coming, means that it only encourages excess buying, greed and the idea that nothing lasts forever and you always need more. Those people who can always buy more may appear to benefit from this. However, I believe in the ability to obtain any thing you want, the purpose of fashion as a self expression tool would be lost. Uniqueness and oddity overshadows by the ability to have the “classics” (Chanel, Birkin, Prada…). Personal style replaced by the ability to afford pre-determined style. The exileration and excitment of owning something you know is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase replaced by the boredom at the thought that you can have 100s of the said item. Take Victoria Beckham, for example. The woman has over 100 Birkin bags, her collection valued at $2 million US. Where is the significance in owning such an iconic bag when you have more than most people have pairs of underwear and your collection could feed a third-world country?
What do you think? What would our fashion experience be if we could have absolutely anything? Do you think the ones who can have it all, with the seemingly endless funds, become desensitised? Would a luxury item bought buy said person ignite the same kind of feeling if someone with less than endless funds purchased it? Fashion, for me, is about the chase. About the hunt, the odd, the unique, the different, the cheap, the better, the one no one else has. Without the need to limit myself and search a little further for true Erin clothes at an affordable price, I wonder just what the point of it would be. Fashion, although so often is, should not be disposable. It is economically and environmentally irresponsible to purchase clothes at the rate a lot of women (me included, albeit at a budget level) do and the fashion industry encourages.
A fashionista in New York is spoilt for choice. From the drool-worthy stores on 5th Avenue; Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany, Prada, to the wholesale warehouses in Gramercy, to the up-and-coming designer boutiques in Soho and Greenwich, to the endless supply of vintage and thrift. There’s no limit to what money can buy you in New York. But, after a flurried past month marred by my constant I want, I want, I want attitude I am now slapping myself into line, rejecting the greed that the industry elicits and focusing on maitaining personal style at a budget I can afford, without turning to stripping, and reveling in my luck that I can buy clothing at all.
My dad will be so relieved.