Saturday, 19 April 2014

Slow Burn on Fast Fashion (Part I)

It was an unexpected conversation. There I was standing before the soon-to-opened Australian high-temple to fast fashion, giant electronic imitation antique clocks counting down the hours, minutes and seconds until H&M opened their first local store. I had my camera in hand and snapped off a few shots when the customer service gentleman from the Bourke Street tram stop approached me.

"It's pretty crazy," he said. I let out a non-committal "hmmm" and formed the awkward smile when I haven't prepared my face to smile. I looked at the crowds passing by, the VIP railings being set up for opening night, demarcating the special from the plebs.

"It's just a shop," he continued, "in a month's time it will be forgotten about and the next thing will come along."

"It'll be sooner that that," I said, "the Emporium opens up in less than two weeks." Sometimes I wonder whether I actually say the things I say. This guy had the benefit of hours standing in front of fast fashion ground zero and he was going to say his piece, regardless of my additions or intentions.

"Sure, it's made a few more jobs, but it's all so cheap. What about the people who make these clothes? How to they make a shirt for $6?"

I followed up with a slightly more committal "Yeah, well..."

"And soon they'll want to stay open for longer. Myer wants to do 24 hour trading. I mean, what will that do to families? The workers? All the other shops will have to stay open longer just to compete, but they won't want to pay the proper rates."

Ah, retail! I know about retail, I'm in retail! "Yep, that's retail," I said, "Adapt and survive. I've been in retail for seven years and..."

"My wife's been in retail for 35 years," tram man said, "Thirty-five years. And for all the governement's opening up trade and Workchoices and all this other hot air, has it made out lives any easier? No."

Ooh...politics! I majored in politics. Maybe I can contribute to this debate, "Yeah, retail workers always get shafted..."

"And they STILL want to cut their wages. What, so they can work at 1am for the same wage as 9-5? I don't think so."

We were certainly in agreement at this point. "I completely agree," I began, "Look, I gotta head back to work, but it's been nice chatting with you."

"Oh, sure. You too. See ya."

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