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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