With disposable fashion, our clothing purchases are limitless. And the more brands know about the mechanisms of our brains, the more they can influence our purchases.
The documentary “Fast fashion: under fashion at low prices”, which will be broadcast on RTS1 on Wednesday, highlights the human and ecological costs of our shopping spree. What do we want to buy? Not sure… Big names in neuromarketing know how to avoid remorse.
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Only three items left!
We are well aware of the famous “only three items left” injunction, requiring a decision to be made in an emergency. The rarity compels to buy under the influence of the emotion and the price, always lower, completes to convince us. Making it small and cheap to get people to buy a lot: for example, fast fashion – disposable fashion – appeals to our reward circuit.
Apps designed to make us addicted
“Social networks like Instagram remove all the friction points that can make you think and refuse to buy. The companies that created these applications hired big names in computer science, as well as psychology and neuroscience to create a strong emotional response. “, notes Alex Genevski, specialist in the brain, purchasing and neuromarketing at Erasmus University Rotterdam. “The brain’s dopaminergic response, in particular, will make the experience addictive and make people want to come back and use the app over and over.”
Influencers replace traditional ads
“Of course we sell! And the brands always have more budget to spend on us,” explains Camille Callen aka Noholita, influencer interviewed in the documentary. Fast fashion is letting go of traditional advertising, which has become too expensive and under-targeted. Instead, brands are turning to influencers and implementing much more effective marketing.
“Thanks to the Instagram application, we can post links for every piece of clothing or accessory we wear. People just click and they come to the merchant’s site,” continues Camille Callen. “I’m paid on the percentage of sales made through my links.” For a simple video, the influencer can get 5000 euros.
Every year, 4 million tons of textiles end up in the trash in Europe. Since 2000, the amount of clothing purchased has practically doubled.
In the middle of the last century, clothing represented a third of the household budget. Today it is barely 5%. Production costs have fallen, and “fast fashion” allows you to constantly renew your wardrobe.
For philosophy professor Gilles Lipovetsky, “We are addicted to novelty. We can no longer tolerate repetition because tradition is no longer legitimate. We need novelty to feel alive and drive away boredom.” For millennia we have lived in repetition. The children ate, danced, and dressed as their parents without any problem. “We have been vaccinated with the new virus,” concludes Gilles Lipovetsky.
“The most sustainable piece of clothing is the one you don’t buy”,
Géraldine Viret of the NGO Public Eye
Dealers and consumers
We spend between two and three hours a day on our phone. One in two users has a shopping app. And nowadays it is not uncommon for a piece of clothing to be worn only once. “People buy phenomenal amounts, I feel like saying, but when are you wearing them?” exclaims Laurent Raoul, professor at the Institut Français de la Mode. “We are in the same logic as for drugs. Are there consumers because there are dealers or is it the opposite? Who should be accused? We are in this mechanism and at the moment the dealers are doing very well,” Laurent Raoul joked.
Almost half of the posts on Instagram are devoted to fashion and beauty. “The typical fast fashion consumer is young and connected. They feel constantly watched. Social media users look at you. You can’t be seen in the same outfit twice,” notes Nikolay Anguelov, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.
12 euros per dress… but at what price?
Inditex, owner of Zara, the world leader in fast fashion and the new bosses of ultra fast fashion such as the brands “PrettyLittleThing” and “Boohoo” are worth billions. Few in number but very powerful, they are at the top of a tiered subcontracting pyramid.
“A handful of highly influential brands place orders with a large number of subcontractors chasing small orders every day. This generates a lot of competition and pushes prices down,” said Nikolaus Hammer, researcher and labor specialist at the University of Leicester. “The subcontractors are obliged to take all orders, even if they do not have the capacity to respond.” These workshops have no choice but to outsource the work in turn to a second workshop and then to a third. Working conditions worsen every time. Even in the heart of England, the documentary shows.
Resist, even if it’s cheap
In Switzerland, the Public Eye association has been researching the textile industry for several years now. In 2019, the association dissected the production line of a ZARA sweater from the “Join Life” collection, which would be a model of sustainability even in the factories in Turkey. Their research found that the price pressure from suppliers is such that ultimately it is the workers who pay the high price for Inditex, owner of Zara, to make juicy profits.
“Our compulsive purchases are not trivial. We need to inform the consumer and remind him of his central role in the chain of responsibility. I want to tell people: resist before buying anything, even if it is cheap! But relying on this awareness alone to reverse the trend would be an illusion. Only government intervention to demand responsible supply chains can trigger a decisive change,” said Public Eye spokesperson Géraldine Viret.
RTS documentaries, Muriel Reichenbach
The documentary “Fast fashion: Below fashion at low Prices” by Gilles Bovon and Edouard Perrin can be seen on Play.rts until March 20, 2020.