Tuesday, February 3, 2015

No Time for Clothes

Bombfell is a sign of the time, I think. It’s a clothing subscription service that promises to save men most of the trouble and aggravation of shopping for clothes. I can’t mention Bombfell without a few caveats: at a price near $69 per item or $5,000 per year, it’s not for submillionaires; customers still have to try on all the clothing, so the promised time-saving is mostly an illusion; the range of styles is strictly inside-the-box. Still, an entire business built on the suggestion that you can avoid the inconvenience of clothes shopping is a measure of our collective time pressure.

This is, of course, a first world problem. “How am I supposed to find the time to go shopping for clothes?” is not a question that would easily occur to most of the people in the world, for whom just having clothing that fits and is not torn or stained is a mark of success in that department. Just the thought that you need new clothing every month is a cultural mistake that results in heaps of clothing being donated to charity while still in new condition. A better answer for most people who don’t have time to shop for clothing for a couple of years is to wear the clothes that are already in the closet. That, you may recall, became a fashion trend in 2009, much to the consternation of the fashion industry. That was more from financial pressure than from time pressure, but the effect is the same. There is no telling how many people have stuck with the no-new-clothing strategy for six years, since it takes longer than that for a closet full of clothes to start to look shabby. To sum this all up, if you really wanted to be practical, you wouldn’t be shopping for clothes quite so much, and it does seem as if shoppers are cutting back.

The failures of a series of fashion retailers this winter even as shoppers have more money to spend also hints that clothes shopping is wearing on us. Perhaps fashion has become too subtle or too complicated. Perhaps the tight link between clothes and success has been lost to other categories: food, exercise, mobile devices. Perhaps the decline of the department stores has left clothing retail adrift without an anchor. Whatever the reason, clothing does not seem to be winning our attention in quite the same way it did in the past.