You can now shop Zara online. But is that a good thing?

Does the world really need easier access to fast fashion?ZARA

Does the world really need easier access to fast fashion?

From Wednesday, fashion giant Zara has an online store in Australia and New Zealand, meaning shopping with the Spanish brand has never been easier.

When the news was announced a couple of weeks ago, it was met with much excitement from various media outlets and social media users.

“Zara’s Finally Launching An Online Store In Aus & Your Wallet Just Carked It”, was the headline in one publication, while a TV personality I follow on Instagram received 180 likes on a cut-and-paste of another outlet’s headline.

Zara in Sylvia Park.Phil Walter

Zara in Sylvia Park.

Prior to the launch, a select few Kiwi fashion writers, bloggers and Instagram influencers were sent foil packages containing preview links to the website and gift cards so that they could shop the range before the general public. 

They took to Instagram to share that they were among the ‘chosen ones.’

Hundreds of shoppers queued at Sylvia Park, in Auckland, waiting for Zara's doors to open.PHIL WATER/GETTY IMAGES

Hundreds of shoppers queued at Sylvia Park, in Auckland, waiting for Zara’s doors to open.

The hype was undeniable, but I wasn’t convinced. Does the world really need easier access to fast fashion?

First, the pros: having Zara available online will make it more accessible to people who live outside the capital cities where it has a presence (Zara currently has 15 stores across Australia and only one store in New Zealand, in Auckland’s Sylvia Park mall.)

 Zara to launch online store for New Zealand customers
 Zara opens its first NZ store at Auckland’s Sylvia Park
 Opinion: Experts say New Zealand H&M and Zara stores are ‘a good thing’
 What’s on our Zara wish list for Wednesday

Depending on where they shop, colleagues have described wildly different Zara experiences. Some stores are serene, and “finds” seem to grow on trees, whereas others can resemble nightclubs the morning after an overseas guest act (and before the cleaners have visited).

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Having the online store, my colleague said, means she can choose in peace, with some sense of order – “If I want a blazer or a particular trend, I want them all in the same spot, not all over the store…” – and then try things on, or better still, try them on in the comfort of her home.

And by offering free returns, customers can send back items they don’t like, rather than merely leaving them to gather dust in the closet because a) returning things to a store is inconvenient, and often comes with a deadline; and b) the garment was so cheap to begin with that returning it seems like a waste of time.

Having Zara searchable online will also help people shop to fill gaps in their wardrobe, rather than making impulse purchases. Or at least I hope that’s how people will use the site.

Now, the cons: having Zara available online will make it more accessible to everyone, not just people who make the effort to visit a store.

I have largely weaned myself off fast fashion, or at least the worst of it: these days I only buy things I really love, regardless of price. And I don’t judge anyone who, through budget, taste or convenience, buys most of their wardrobe from one of the major international chains, which also include H&M and UNIQLO.

But it’s important to consider how you shop as well as where you shop, and the arrival of the Zara e-store is a timely opportunity to give pause.

If Zara “on tap” means people end up buying more clothes that they will only wear for a short time before sending them to landfill, then I find it hard to get on board 100 per cent. But if it means people shop more consciously, choosing things they need or really want, and return those that are unsuitable, then I am all for it.

The fact is, the world has a fast-fashion problem. Fanny Moizant, of designer re-sale website Vestiaire Collective said last week that she believes the whole industry has been affected by fast-fashion’s obsession with “newness”. Zara drops new stock each week and can turn styles around in a little over two.

This has meant even mid-range and luxury brands are feeling pressure to produce more ranges per year.

“Everyone has followed that mad pace from two seasons to nearly 52 seasons a year,” she said.

No matter how many column inches are devoted to fast-fashion’s flaws – from its contribution to landfill and pollutants to the treatment of workers – it is here to stay.

So rather than rallying against fast fashion altogether, I’m calling on fans of Zara to use the launch of the website to re-evaluate how they consume fast fashion. Making more sensible purchases won’t reverse the damage that’s been done but it will slow things down a little bit. And browsing in your pyjamas sure beats trudging around the shops in your lunch break.

– Stuff and Sydney Morning Herald

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