Can we dress well and still save the planet?27.05.2022
Alec Leach’s debut novel is titled The World Is on Fire, but We’re Still Buying Shoes. The book’s core question is just as simple. It is well-known that fashion is harmful to the environment, so why do we continue shopping? Leach, who was formerly a fashion editor and became a sustainability consultant, set out on a quest to find answers. It is a profoundly curious and current meditation on modern consumerism and hype culture. The fashion industry’s obsessions with streetwear have created a frenzied drop after another without any signs of slowing down.
Leach, who worked for Highsnobiety for nearly five years, doesn’t want to belittle anyone who likes clothes. From his Berlin office, he says that everyone deserves nice clothes. Leach admits that there’s no easy way to navigate shopping and sustainability. He says, “I didn’t want to preach some commandments of shopping like I have all the answers.” It is refreshing to see someone writing about fashion’s global environment crisis in a tone that is still urgent but has a deeper understanding for the emotional side.
Leach approaches every issue from the perspective of someone who is able to see the beauty in fashion and the power it has for self-expression. Leach’s book alternates between an intimate story about his love of Our Legacy and a detailed breakdown of why the “Made In label” is often a complete lie. Leach is a master at mixing sugar and medicine. He insists on the fact that shopping secondhand is not the solution. We as consumers must change our relationship to shopping.
We spoke with Leach about his changing relationship to fashion, the power to question each purchase and how we can take a slower, more deliberate approach to the clothes in our closets.
What was the first time you started to question your relationship with fashion?
For me, the most important thing was going to Paris Fashion Week every season. I saw maybe 10 collections each day with my own eyes. Then, I get in my inbox 10 to 20 more collections every day. It’s hard to believe that fashion doesn’t end. After a while, that was what really got me down. You see tens, if not hundreds, of new collections every season. I began to wonder what the point was in all this and where was it all going?
It can be exhausting trying to keep up with everything. It’s hard to keep up with what you should be buying. It was at this point that I began to question what I was getting from it. When I quit my job at Highsnobiety, was when I began to question my lifestyle. My life was filled with so much stuff that it didn’t really matter to me. After chasing all the latest trends and getting all the designer I needed, I realized that my closet was full of things that didn’t really matter to me. It didn’t suit me and I didn’t enjoy wearing it.
How can you transform the way you shop?
Remember that your clothing needs are unique. You probably won’t need a down jacket if you live in Los Angeles. You will need a rain jacket if you live in London. It’s important to remember the little things that are so tedious about clothes. Many people find they wear the same clothes over and over again. The majority of their clothes don’t get worn very often. This is definitely something I noticed. When I wrote the book, I really thought about this: What do I need? What do I love to wear?
Also, think about what works for you and what you want to do. What are you looking for in the mirror? It is easy to let others tell us what we should wear and what to buy. It is easy to get stuck in a cycle where you only listen to what others think. It is important to step back and think about what you truly want and need from your clothes.
The current popularity of Nike Dunk was compared to the “cerulean sweatshirt” scene in The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep’s character delivers a monologue on the influence fashion executives have on driving trends.
My motivation for entering the Nike Dunk story was to show how important marketing teams can be in shaping our shopping habits. Marketing teams and merchandising teams will always decide what you buy if you are constantly looking for influencers, magazines or brands to help you make your decision. In the book, I argue that this leads to a dissatisfying circle because you don’t buy what you want. Marketing executives will want you to buy things. This is, to my mind, a dead end.
One of the biggest takeaways for me from the book was a better understanding of how clothes are made, starting with the raw materials and ending up with the final product. Many consumers are also disconnected from the manufacturing process. Why do you think this is?
It is partly because it is really, really complex–and it has become really, really globalized. It’s easy to believe that if something says “Made In USA” or “Made In China”, it means it was made in one country. It’s likely that there were many different facilities that made that particular garment. It’s easy to believe that clothes making is simple because we don’t see all of it. This is another reason why we buy so many clothes. It’s a giant machine that spews out toxic chemicals and pollution all around the globe. It’s just not there. This is another reason we end up purchasing more than we actually need.
A story about online shopping was included to help you “take the edge off” during the pandemic surge that closed the borders. Why did you choose to include such a personal moment in your book?
Shopping can be an emotional experience. It can be something we turn to when we need a distraction or a pick-me-up. This is where “retail therapy” gets its name. It’s another way we can sleepwalk into buying things we don’t need, whether we are sad, stressed, anxious, or any other reason. Shopping can be a way to alleviate any difficult feelings. It was sharing this for me. Yes, I have purchased stuff in the past to feel better. This was because I didn’t want to preach the virtues of shopping like I had all the answers.
Therapy was my biggest influence when I wrote the book. It was something I did every week for two years. That was my greatest inspiration and motivation to examine all the psychological and philosophical issues I discuss in the book.
What message do readers want to take away from this book, and what are your thoughts?
This book is more about framing shopping like a journey. The book’s main message is that you don’t need to dress just for yourself. It is not necessary to be interested in the same things as you are. This can make you feel empowered because you are building your self-confidence. It all comes down to finding something to wear. It’s that simple. All of us deserve to have nice clothes, and all of us should have nice clothes.
This pair of harness boots is the best investment I have made in recent years. They can be worn with almost anything. They’re as comfortable as any pair of shoes I have. They look great with everything and I still love to wear them even after a few years. These are easy to make informed purchases that fit your needs. It’s not difficult to identify your needs.