University in Hong Kong

could be nurtured, by de-emphasizing what is seen and heard (i.e.
fashion“buzz”), to one that values actual, tactile experience. How that
approach can be transferred to fashion remains to be seen. However, the
promise is evident, provided the focus is shifted from fashion as image,
to the materiality of fashion.
While dreams and desires feed consumer behavior, they must be constrained
if sustainability is to be viable. Young consumers will need to embrace
a significant shift in consumerism: no longer routinely purchasing
on impulse, and no longer routinely viewing their acquisitions through
the lens of short-term thinking. In fact, sustainable fashion should become
their dream, and all stakeholders in the fashion industry should strive toward
this goal, with luxury fashion playing a major role in the transition.
Aesthetics plays a key role in this transition, calling upon the consumer’s
ability to discern and value artisanal quality. Heidegger argues
that a work of art is never finished when the artist stops working on it;
rather, it needs a viewer to make present the “being of a thing” (Atwood
2004: 48). The same can be said of luxury: only once a luxury item has
become an element of a consumer’s self-definition, with its innate appeal
both reflecting and reinforcing the consumer’s individual aesthetic, can
it be said to be fully complete.
Luxury brands can become the leaders in sustainability because of
their emphasis on artisanal quality; why toss an item designed to last, with
292 Annamma Joy, John F. Sherry, Jr, Alladi Venkatesh, Jeff Wang and Ricky Chan
timeless—as opposed to deliberately time-limited—style? Dissuading
consumers from fast fashion poses a significant challenge, however, given
their acute addiction to its transient thrills. However, since identity is
continually evolving, and requires a materially referential imagining of
an individual’s identity, an alignment of fashion with saving the environment
could make dissuasion possible (Parkins 2008). Such a process
cannot be tied to the conceit of a self that is fully transparent to itself and
to whom we are able to assign agency (Butler 2005). As Binkley (2008:
602) notes, “Ambivalence itself is no longer the enemy of identity, but
the basis for an on-going project of the self, tuned to the endless preproduction
of fluidity, mobility, and indeterminacy as a permanent state
through a variety of life choices, daily practices, and on-going projects
of the self.” We tend to believe like Butler (2005) does, that the basis
for morality is not so much self-identity but the exposure to others—the
continued desire and attempt to not close down the task of narrative
itself. Fashion, especially sustainable fashion, lends itself to such creative
practice (Entwistle and Rocamora 2006). As Wilson (2004: 381) suggests,
“Fashion, the epitome of consumerism, is also its stealthiest critic.”
The authors gratefully acknowledge receipt of an SSHRC grant No:
410-2004-1497 in Canada and an internal grant from the Hong Kong
Polytechnic University in Hong Kong.
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