The Rise of Anti-Consumerism
Some consumers, however, are disenchanted with mindless consumption
and its impact on society (Kozinets and Handleman 2004). Terms
that are often used to represent this anti-market stance are: consumer
resistance, rebellion, boycotting, countercultural movements, and nonconsumption
(Shaw and Riach 2011). Consumers are also aware that
individual consumption fosters organizational production, creating
an ongoing cycle of appetite, simultaneously voracious and insatiable.
Bauman (2000) calls it “liquid consumption.” Fluidity of identity and
uncertainty are the trademarks of such a system, often leading to an
anti-consumerism position (Binkley 2008). According to Binkley (2008:
601), “While anti-consumerism defines a broad set of ethical and political
positions and choices, it also operates on the every-day level of
mundane consumer choice, through critical discourses about the market
itself, where small decisions serve to anchor subjectivities in constructed
and heavily mediated narratives of lifestyle, self-hood, community, and
identity.” Anxiety and responsibility can weigh heavily on consumers.
In the process of being catapulted to a postmodern lifestyle, “identity”
as Bauman notes (2005: 116–28), in liquid modernity becomes “an
endlessly cultivated and optimized polyvalency of mobility, a skilled
adaptability to a permanent state of ambivalence and unsettledness.”
Such ambivalence allows individuals to continually reinvent themselves.
Multiple evolving selves, as we argued earlier, are built on constantly
evolving fashion styles created by fast fashion. But herein lies the paradox:
the very possibility of reinvention can now serve to disenchant the
consumer, as a means of revealing consumption’s potential to harm others
and the environment; such information can now realign consumers
with ecologically sustainable fashion (Beard 2008; Elsie 2003).
Methodology: Searching for Subconscious Values
In our study, we interviewed both male and female fast fashion consumers
aged between twenty and thirty-five in Hong Kong and Canada on
their own ideas of style and fashion, to highlight the issues involved in
their approach to consumption. Hong Kong is a long-time manufacturing
powerhouse in the fashion industry, home to at least one centenary
company: Li & Fung, a self-described “network orchestrator” (Mihm
2010: 59) founded in 1906, and now the largest outsourcing firm in
the world, linking to 83,000 suppliers worldwide (Fung et al., 2008).
Canada, by contrast, falls at the opposite end of the fashion industry
continuum, playing no major role. Unsurprisingly, given its potent lure,
fast fashion has taken root within Hong Kong’s and Canada’s respective
youth cultures with equal vitality.
278 Annamma Joy, John F. Sherry, Jr, Alladi Venkatesh, Jeff Wang and Ricky Chan
We found that sustainability is not a term young consumers typically
associate with fashion, although they are very open to environmentalism.
Such contradictory sensibilities need to be understood in order to
alter perceptions and attitudes.
Varying levels of interest in fashion and brands notwithstanding,
fashion is key to many of the younger adults, (those under twenty-eight
years old), in our study, which is why we chose that specific demographic;
as well as a slightly older group (aged between twenty-eight
and thirty-five), whose fashion choices were more closely linked to their
professional lives. In both Canada and Hong Kong, students who were
invited to join our study led us to other students, until we reached theoretical
saturation and redundancy. Table 1 lists participants by name,
country, age, and occupation.
To gather and analyze data, we combined phenomenological interviews
with the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET), a
method of accessing subliminal thoughts by probing the metaphoric
sub-context of images self-selected by research subjects. We initially
met with each participant individually, instructing them to select ten
images representing what fast fashion meant to them, at least three