When one thinks of Europe, an amazing mix of cultures, languages and traditions often springs to mind. Coming from Australia, the diversity of Europe is a major draw card for travellers (well for me at least) to be able to experience so many different cultures right next door to each other.
But walking through the streets of various European cities, it became alarmingly obvious how extremely similar everyone is- at least when it comes to their clothing choices (traditional food is also a dying culture on this continent, but that’s a different story). Looking around me, I noticed how the fashion trends that people were following were the exact same as those that I can find on the streets of Melbourne.
Way back in the day, when I was fresh out of high school and studying Fashion Design, I remember always thinking that I’d love to go to Europe just to see the difference between fashions in each country. I’d imagined that France would be classic and sophisticated, Germany a bit edgy and Eastern European countries to be bold with lots of bling, to the point of being tacky. I thought every time I crossed a border, I would witness a whole new wave of exciting fashion choices- daring outfits that would be a rarity back home in Australia (at this time we were especially known for being behind when it came to fashion trends).
Sadly, this is not the case.
And the reason for this is so simple. Fast fashion chains have killed the culture of fashion and the concept of style. Shopping strips in all the major European cities are just a long line of H&M’s and Zara’s. It is like being in a cartoon where the animators were too lazy to design a new background and kept re-running the same scene. Each store is huge and offers (from what I can tell from the outside and when I am brave enough to go in, just inside the door) different fashion trends so people really feel like they have to go into the next store, even though they were in the one that’s fifty meters behind them. Stock is changed every couple of weeks, bringing new trends into each store. And that’s how they get you. Fear of missing out (or FOMO as the cool kids call it). Fear of being left behind in your unfashionable, so-three-weeks-ago outfit.
The unfortunate result of this is that people look like clones. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been at some tourist attraction and there has been a group of five or so people wearing almost the exact same outfit. It has become a bit of a game for me to spot these people. Seriously, are they purposely doing it? Back when I was a teenager, it was considered the height of embarrassment to be wearing the same thing as your friend in public. Absolute fashion nightmare.
It seems to be that teenagers and people in their early 20’s are hardest hit by this fast fashion ‘cloning-culture’. I mean, I know other age groups shop at fast fashion chains, but they seem to be able to adapt the pieces to their own personal style. They certainly don’t do matchy-matchy outfits with their friends.
Although I am aware that fashion trends have always eventually moved throughout the world- Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ is a perfect example- globalisation has sped up this process to an unprecedented level. Before this phenomenon, local businesses were able to thrive and different fashion trends could be identified across the world. But these days, it is a different story.
Leaving aside the lack of sustainable and ethical practices within these fast fashion chains for a minute, these organisations are also destroying individuality and any hint of cultural diversity in fashion. To them, the world is one big marketplace where people are all the same. It takes time and costs a lot of money for a business to diversify its offerings to suit different markets in various countries. Sadly, it seems that many fashion brands these days don’t believe diversity is something worth investing in.
But there is one good thing about shopping in Europe (well at least for Australians)… All the buildings are super old and amazing! Every shop just looks like a palace!