There is no “just” about it, though. Such a development is the inverse of the former conventional wisdom, which held that if you didn’t inundate people with a constant stream of fresh products, addling their senses and saturating their judgment centers, you risked losing their attention — and wallet share.
That was, it turned out, a short-term way of thinking that reeked of insecurity, relying on freneticism and white noise. It may have boosted sales, but it also led to not only a glut of stuff but also an erosion of the value proposition. After all, if the company that made a garment didn’t think it was worth hanging on to for more than a few weeks, why should the person who buys it?
Once that confidence and understanding is lost, it is unclear how it ever comes back. Upcycling may be the answer.
“I started being a fashion designer because I never found anything I liked,” said Mrs. Prada, who hates throwing clothes away and has a whole separate apartment where she keeps her old wardrobe as well as her mother’s.
“Before that, for 10 years I dressed in vintage,” she continued. “I always asked myself why I liked it so much, and I think it’s the history. Each dress represents a person, a piece of a life. For me, the past always had an incredible value because anything you learn comes from there.”
Yet not that long ago, during a discussion in early 2019 for Muse magazine about fashion’s role in the climate crisis, I asked Marco Bizzarri, the chief executive of Gucci, why his brand didn’t take back its own clothes once consumers were done with them so they could be upcycled and resold. Why, though fashion was increasingly grappling with the environmental impact of materials at the start of a product’s life, there wasn’t as much focus on its end of life, or second life. At the time, he said it was too complicated and systems weren’t in place.